RedHawk to be part of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8, too?

Rumor alert: Might the coming Windows Phone 8 operating system have even more in common with Windows 8, architecturally, than the OS kernel itself?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

As the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012 conference quickly approaches, rumors about the next version of Windows Phone are starting to fly fast and furious.

One rumor I've heard from a couple places now is that Microsoft may start talking publicly about "Apollo," a k a the Windows Phone 8 operating system, at the show, which kicks off at the end of February. (Will the Softies talk "Tango," too? I haven't heard.)

As Microsoft rumor patrollers may recall, there's been lots of talk and speculation -- informed and less so -- that the next version of the Windows Phone OS will swap out the current core (Windows Embedded Compact) for some variant of Windows. The most believable/likely version of this rumor has Embedded Compact being swapped out for MinWin, the detangled Windows corel. Microsoft has neither confirmed nor denied this.

On January 24, new Apollo-related information appeared in a Russian forum -- which I discovered via tweets from @AngelWZR -- about Apollo.

To be clear, this is all still in rumor category. I don't know the author of the info, the source of this info, or the accuracy rate of information in these particular forums. But the English translation of one post there made it sound as if there is some kind of Apollo documentation circulating out there which corroborates the Windows Phone kernel-swapping rumors that surfaced last year.

Here's the part of the post in question:

"Windows Phone 'Apollo' brings together platform parity with Windows 8, experience parity with Windows Phone 'Mango', and a set of new features and functionality developed for Windows Phone 'Apollo'.

"Platform parity means that the phone OS is now based on the Windows NT kernel instead of the Windows CE kernel. Windows Phone 'Apollo' uses the Core System from Windows 8, which is a minimal Windows system that boots, manages its hardware and resources, authenticates and communicates on a network, and can be managed at a basic level....

"The final significant changes of note are the adoption of ESENT, also known as Jet, for the database engine, and the managed-code runtime. Rather than using the .NET Compact Framework from Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 'Apollo' uses the Core CLR produced by the Developer Division at Microsoft."

My translation of the translation:

  • Windows Phone 8 will look and feel a lot like Windows Phone 7.5 Mango and include some new unnamed features.
  • The "core system from Windows 8" mentioned in the posting definitely sounds like MinWin to me. (And remember, there have been a lot of MinWin sightings in Windows 8, and MinWin was part of Windows 7, as well.)
  • ESENT (the Extensible Storage Engine) is a variant of what often is called the "Jet Blue" database engine. ESENT is the database engine for Active Directory and many Microsoft Windows components.
  • And the Core CLR referenced here? Sure sounds like this has to do with Microsoft codename 'Redhawk,' if you ask me.

Redhawk, my codename tipsters have said, is a new managed-code execution environment that would be more lightweight and more appealing to developers who have been put off by the perceived overhead of the current Common Language Runtime (CLR) at the heart of the .Net Framework. (Also remember: there have been sightings of RH and RHP in leaked Windows 8 builds.)

Yes, I know I am reaching. But it's sounding more and more to me that the game plan for Windows Phone 8 is to align with Windows 8 -- not just in terms of a common design language and interface (Metro), the same HTML5 Internet Explorer browser and integration with Windows Live and Azure -- but also in terms of a common core.

Other guesses here? Will there also be a common programming environment and dev tools shared by Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 by the time all this rumored convergence comes to pass? And what will these changes mean to current Windows Phone developers who've already built Windows Phone apps?

Update: A couple of the folks with whom I chat on Twitter think the "core CLR" reference in the Russian forum post has to do with the Core CLR that Microsoft introduced at Mix in 2007. It well could -- and could have broader implications as to the relationship between Windows Phone 8 OS and WinRT, the new Windows 8 runtime. As I tried to make clear in my post, I am simply trying to read the tea leaves and am speculating here. So speculate along with me!

Update No. 2: There was more to the original 4PDA.ru post, as Makram Daou at MobileTechWorld.com noted. Here are a few more tidbits from the original poster, with no information as to where this information is coming from:

  • ”Texus Shell (TShell) is a tool that allows you to interact with Windows Phone “Apollo” phones via a Windows PowerShell command prompt. You can copy files to the phone, execute processes, attach a debugger, run commands using the phone’s command interpreter, and run test content stored on WTT test servers”
  • ”The Windows Phone “Apollo” release ports the ambient light, proximity, magnetometer, compass, and gyroscope sensors from Windows Phone “Mango”. It also incorporates the accelerometer, which was a standalone implementation in the previous OS version”,
  • “You can use Hyper-V to test x86 builds of the phone OS”

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