As expected, Microsoft took off the wraps from Windows Phone 8 at the Windows Phone developer summit. While, the company did not outline each and every feature of the new platform, they did show off eight major highlights of Windows Phone 8 which is expected this fall. Read on for more.
Shared Core with Windows 8: To get start things, Microsoft started with perhaps the biggest announcement, that Windows Phone 8 shares a lot of its code with Windows 8, including the NT code. This has numerous developer advantage as apps and drivers which can be used on a Windows Phone or a Windows 8 tablet seamlessly or with minimal code changes.
Microsoft has even added native app support which basically means that developers will have it easy while porting apps from other platforms like iOS and Android. But the biggest benefit of this will be a common game development platform using Direct X. So a developer could essentially develop for Windows without thinking about the platform.
Multi-core support : This feature was a long time coming. While the core Windows Phone experience has often been described as ‘Buttery smooth’, but of late some of the elements of the OS are starting fall behind. Microsoft has said that the main focus is on dual-core, but the platform will have full multi-core support.
Higher Resolution displays: Windows Phone Mango devices are stuck on a rather ancient WVGA resolution. Microsoft is now introducing additional support for 1280×720 and 1280×768/WXVGA resolutions. This means now we can expect Windows Phone devices flaunting Retina like marketing terms.
Other than this, Windows Phone 8 will also finally get microSD card support as well as NFC support.
Internet Explorer 10: Internet Explorer of Windows Phone was in dire need for a speed bump and Microsoft responded to our demands. Microsoft has improved Java Script by four times along with HTML5 performance. Additionally, it brings Windows 8 like security features like Anti-Phising.
To give some perspective to the speed of Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft showed a slide where its browser was faster than the Galaxy S III, and also the iPhone 4S running iOS6.
Nokia Maps: This is perhaps the biggest fruit of the Nokia partnership. For Windows Phone 8, Microsoft have dumped their own Bing Maps, with Nokia’s widely acclaimed solution which uses the Navteq backend. Some of the features of Nokia Maps include Turn-By-Turn navigation, offline use and also better and wider spread maps for a global audience.
Enterprise Ready: The Enterprise panned Windows phone when it was launched in 2010. Partially, because Windows Mobile was so secure and enterprise ready. Redmond has gone the extra mile to get some enterprise love. Windows Phone 8 includes BitLocker Drive encryption, and IT professionals will have the ability to side load apps by sidestepping the Marketplace. Additionally, Office is also being beefed up, but Microsoft did not say how.
Wallet: Like the Passbook app on iOS 6, Microsoft is bringing a Wallet Hub for Windows Phone 8 which will have the ability to tap into data from third party apps. The feature will obviously be NFC enabled and Microsoft will provide the provision to deactivate sim authorization, so that carriers cannot block its usage like the way they block Google Wallet.
New Start Screen: While we hoped that Microsoft would include a notification center on Windows Phone 8, the company instead showcased a slightly tweaked Start Screen tile menu. User will now be able to customize the size and color of their tiles with a choice of three sizes including small, medium and double wide. All the current apps are by default designed for the small and medium sizes, but developers will be able to add support for the larger tiles.
Apart from these features, Microsoft also said that Windows Phone 8 will have enhanced VoIP support but Skype will remain a separate app. Thankfully, Windows Phone 8 will bring better multitasking support to apps. Navigation and VoIP apps will continue to run in the background. VoIP apps in particular will have the same look and feel as the calling hub and will be accessible even from the lock screen.
Microsoft also showed off its new speech engine that it has licensed from Audible. Apart from the ability to start apps using voice commands, developers will be able to integrate Audible’s APIs in their apps allowing users to use speech commands within apps. Think about it as Siri working within every app.
Microsoft has also announced that the first devices running Windows Phone 8 will be launched later this year by Nokia, HTC, Huawei and Samsung. All the devices will be running on Qualcomm’s silicon. For good measure, Microsoft will deliver all updates over the air (OTA) and is also promising update support for at least 18 months for every Windows Phone 8 smartphone since the launch of the device.
Rajat Agarwal contributed to this report