Apollo Plus: Is this Microsoft's first Windows Phone 8 update?

Could Microsoft add VPN support to the Windows Phone 8 operating system next year via an interim update codenamed 'Apollo Plus'?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

It's been kind of odd that no codename for the successor to the Windows Phone 8 operating system had leaked ... until November 26 (if the rumors are right).


Here's a quick codename refresher. The Windows Phone team has been all about the O's. Windows Phone 7 OS was codenamed NoDo. Then there was Mango (Windows Phone 7.5). A minor interim update arrived next, codenamed Tango. And Windows Phone 8 OS was codenamed Apollo. Joe Belfiore(o), Manager of the Windows Phone Program, said a while back that the team was finished with codenames ending in "O."

So what was Windows Phone 8's successor going to be called?

Winsyde.com posted earlier today that the next release would be codenamed "Apollo +," and that it would be available in Q1 2013 -- citing the @Football4PDA Twitter account as the source. The Verge subsequently posted that the codename of Windows Phone OS 8's follow-on would be "Apollo Plus." (Maybe the ban on codenames ending with O doesn't start till Windows Phone 9 OS?)

The Verge's Tom Warren also reported that Microsoft would share details about the update at the Mobile World Congress show in February 2013. The Verge cited unnamed sources as providing the information, and said the coming update could include features like VPN support, a WiFi connectivity fix and audio improvements.

VPN support is an interesting one, given Microsoft officials said in June of this year that Microsoft had decided against including VPN functionality in the Windows Phone operating system (even though it had been included in Windows Phone OS' predecessor, Windows Mobile). A Microsoft official told me that Microsoft has decided instead to rely on things like Secure SSL to address this need... as they considered Secure SSL "a better, light-weight approach" to providing this kind of functionality in the new BYOD (bring your own device) world.

I've since heard from a number of business users that no VPN support was a deal breaker for their organizations in adopting Windows Phone. I've also heard from users in countries with governments that censor their citizens' Web-browsing that VPN is a much-desired feature for circumventing officially imposed firewalls.

I asked Microsoft whether the next version of the Windows Phone OS was codenamed "Apollo Plus" and whether VPN connectivity will be part of it. Not surprisingly, a spokesperson said only that the company doesn't comment on rumors and speculation.

If Microsoft does refer to the minor, interim update to Windows Phone 8 OS as "Apollo Plus," that might help dampen user expectations a bit. With Tango, many users were expecting a lot more, feature-wise, than ended up being part of that update because it had its own special codename.

Meanwhile, I also asked Microsoft about the whereabouts of the Windows Phone OS 7.8 update -- the one that is slated to allow existing Windows Phone 7 users to make use of resizable tiles on their phones. A Microsoft spokesperson said "More information on 7.8 will be available in the coming weeks.”

As to the rumors circulating that 7.8 might be available this week, I'm doubtful. I think Microsoft might announce the release to manufacturing of 7.8 this week, but I'm hearing the update may not be available from the carriers until early next year (maybe even as late as February 2013).

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