Eight new platform announcements for Windows Phone 8

Joe Belfiore revealed eight new platform features for Windows Phone 8 today with many more end user features remaining to be announced. Existing WP 7.5 owners will get the improved Start screen experience too.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer
There is some in-depth, detailed coverage of Windows Phone 8 on The Verge, Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows, WPCentral, Engadget, and many others. Joe Belfiore told us on stage that he wanted to make eight new platform announcements for Windows Phone 8 so I thought it would be appropriate to list them here as a starting point for you to get an idea about what is coming in the new OS from Microsoft. He said they were NOT revealing all the end user features so expect a lot more from Microsoft this fall.

One: Latest and greatest hardware

The hardware features Joe talked about are current hardware specs we see on Android and iOS, but these are likely not what the next generation of devices will have and I think this is one area where Apple will surpass Windows Phone with their iPhone 5 announcement later this year.

Multi-core processors: So far Windows Phone has run with single core processors and the amazing thing is that Microsoft has been able to deliver a fantastic, fluid experience with this older internal hardware. Android requires multi-core processors to run well so it is quite a testament to the Windows Phone team that they were able to create such an efficient mobile operating system. Dual-core and more should enable even more capability and optimize battery life, but so far it hasn't been required to deliver excellent experiences.

More screen resolutions: Windows Phone launched only with support for WVGA (800x480 pixels) resolution and even on my large screen Nokia Lumia 900 it still looks great. However, the Live Tiles are large and when you compare current devices to something like the HTC One X or Samsung Galaxy S III wit 1280 x 720 HD displays you can see there is room for improvement in display resolution. Windows Phone 8 will support WVGA (800x480), WXGA (1280x768), and 720p (1280x720). The great thing is that all existing WP 7.5 apps will run on all resolutions without any required changes. Developers can optimize if they want, but it is not required.

Removable microSD expansion: One of the things that people complained about when Windows Phone 7 launched was the lack of capability to expand storage with microSD cards. I find it kind of strange that Microsoft is adding this in now when the trend is to move to integrated only storage with extensive cloud support. I rarely use microSD cards and am fine with 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. This likely appeals more to geeks, but may also appeal to enterprise customers who may be putting files onto external cards and popping them into their phones.

Two: Internet Explorer 10

I find the Internet Explorer browser in WP 7.5 to be an excellent mobile browser, but personally still prefer Google Chrome on ICS devices. IE 10 will include the following:

  • SmartScreen anti-phishing filter
  • 4x faster JavaScript performance compared to WP 7.5
  • 2x HTML5 support compared to WP 7.5

Microsoft showed the new IE 10 browser beating all others in SunSpider tests too.

Three: Native code for killer games

I am a sucker for good games, even though I don't spend a lot of time playing them, and purchase most of the latest Xbox Live titles that are released by Microsoft each week. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will be supporting a common platform across Windows 8 and WP 8 with native game development based on DirectX. Developers can write the same game for both platforms, which should end up giving us many more choices on WP thanks to the huge Windows 8 market.

Four: NFC support

Android, BlackBerry, and Symbian currently have NFC support and Apple should as well. I like NFC for reading my train commuter card and using Google Wallet and the more platforms that get it then the more prevalent the technology should become.

Five: Wallet hub

I wrote about some of the features in the new Wallet Hub and think it takes what Apple showed with Passbook to the next level to truly become a physical wallet replacement. The application will provide an experience for credit and debit cards, loyalty and membership cards, saved deals, and eventually NFC tap to pay.

Six: Nokia map technology

Nokia Lumia device owners have enjoyed a premium Nokia Maps experience with offline map support and turn-by-turn navigation. Microsoft will be bringing this to all WP 8 devices with NAVTEQ map data powering the maps. Apple announced a similar product for iOS 6, but without any offline map support.

Seven: Windows Phone 8 for business

Mary Jo wrote about many of the upcoming business features and if you watch the presentation by Joe you will see he mentions the following:

  • Trusted shared Windows core
  • Encryption and Secure Boot
  • LOB app deployment
  • Device management
  • Familiar Office apps

Eight: New Start screen

I find the Start screen with Live Tiles to be one of my favorite aspects of Windows Phone and have two primary screens (one swipe up) with the tiles I access daily. Microsoft is going to soon give you more capability as they get rid of the large black right rail and give you quad tiles where you can fit in four small tiles where one single tile fit before. You will still have the double wide tiles as well. I love the idea behind making a Social quad tile area or one for my favorite games and cannot wait to get this Start screen update on my Nokia Lumia 900 in the coming weeks.

WP 7.8 for current WP owners

While existing devices will NOT get the full Windows Phone 8 update, they will get a 7.8 update that provides the following:

  • New Start screen experience (gets rid of right side gutter)
  • Tile customization
  • Windows Update via WiFi

I know it is not much, but I bought my Nokia Lumia 900 knowing what it does now and am perfectly happy with it. Thus, getting the new Start screen tile layout options is great and one of the major fixes I wanted to see. That and the capability for taking screenshots, which we still haven't heard about and I can only hope is one of those user features not yet revealed.

Overall, Windows Phone 8 looks like a solid update for Microsoft and I just hope that Microsoft markets it stronger than they have in the past. I imagine it will become easier with the shared core and the excitement for Windows 8 has the potential to significantly influence the success of Windows Phone 8.

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