Windows Phone 8: Are there still any real surprises left?

As more code leaks, many Microsoft phone developers are questioning Redmond's wisdom in not making all of Windows Phone 8's features, as well as the SDK itself, public.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft's decision to hold off on making its Windows Phone 8 software development kit (SDK) public until it launches Windows Phone 8 -- on October 29 -- has not made Microsoft's Windows Phone community very happy. (And that's putting it mildly.)

Instead of making the SDK available to developers this summer, as promised earlier this year, Microsoft officials opened the SDK to a limited number of additional testers recently. But those who didn't make the cut based on Microsoft-set criteria cannot build applications that take advantage of the new features in the Windows Phone 8 operating system and devices until after Microsoft and partners launch. For a platform with only three percent market share and which desperately needs more apps and developers, that sure seems like an unpopular and questionable strategy.


Microsoft officials explained the company's timing decision by saying it was trying to hold back on sharing unannounced OS features, which could be (and are) discoverable by accessing the emulators. 

But it turns out there may not be a whole lot of these surprise features left to share -- at least if a WPCentral demo of what is believed to be the near-final version of the Windows Phone 8 OS that's part of  the leaked SDK -- is indicative.

"(No,) there are not any big 'reveals' here," blogged WPCentral's Daniel Rubino in a September 25 post. "That can be because of a few reasons (1) there just isn't anymore or (2) Microsoft even has areas of the SDK locked down, meaning devs can't see all of the OS just yet."

Rubino tweeted on September 26 that the SDK build he demonstrated doesn't include the final build of the Windows Phone 8 OS. (The Windows Phone 8 OS is believed to have been released to manufacturing on September 15, but Microsoft officials have not publicly acknowledged this to be the case.)

The leaked SDK does, however, include some of the leaked features of the operating system which Microsoft officials still have not officially acknowledged, including Kids Corner (a parental-safety feature) and Rooms (a group chatting and sharing feature).

Many planned Windows Phone 8 OS ("Apollo") features leaked at the start of this calendar year. Microsoft officials still haven't publicly acknowledged or shared more information about the replacement for the Zune PC software client (which I've heard is codenamed "Daphne"; whether/how Mobile Internet Explorer 10 will include proxy support (like Amazon's Silk); or data-metering support -- all of which were mentioned in leaked Microsoft documents and videos earlier this year.

Developers are putting pressure on Microsoft to make the Windows Phone 8 SDK available to all and to stop trying to hold back so as to have a few surprises left come October 29. I doubt the Softies are going to backtrack, and expect them to continue to maintain that because Windows Phone 7 apps will be able to run on Windows Phone 8, all will be right with the world, come launch.

Given all the changes Microsoft is making in its core Windows and Windows Phone platforms -- not to mentioning their associated development frameworks and tools -- in the coming months, I'd think the Softies would be doing as much to try to keep their existing developers in the fold as they are to get new ones onboard....

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