With Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) successfully launched and the next minor update, “Tango”, on its way relatively soon, Microsoft is apparently already looking to the future for its Windows Phone platform. A video hosted by senior vice president and Windows Phone manager Joe Belifore, which was intended for Microsoft’s partners at Nokia, was recently leaked giving the inside scoop about the new features of Windows Phone 8, codenamed “Apollo”.
More Hardware Options
One of the biggest issues with the WP7 platform is Microsoft’s stringent hardware requirements for the phones running the OS, which restricted both features and choice. But with Apollo, the emphasis is apparently on user choice, and the new version of the OS will support multi-core processors and will also allow for a total of four different screen resolutions, though the specific pixel counts were not revealed.
Additionally, the huge issue of WP7 devices not having any sort of expandability (due to Microsoft putting the kibosh on that as part of its previous hardware restrictions) will be ameliorated with Apollo, which will support removable microSD card storage. And surprisingly, Microsoft is giving some leeway to third parties with its “lens apps,” according to PocketNow, where Microsoft provides a basic camera interface that “can be skinned by OEMs or overlaid with viewfinders from third parties.”
Another major hardware change that will be part of the Windows 8 platform is its support for NFC radios. Specifically, Belifore mentioned NFC’s inclusion to help push contactless payments as part of the “Wallet experience.” This so-called experience will supposedly be carrier-branded and controlled, though it is unclear whether the secure information will be handled through the SIM card or the phone’s actual hardware. Support for tap-to-share capabilities will be multi-platform, which will allow for the seamless exchange of content via NFC between not just phones, but also desktops, laptops, and tablets.
Cross Compatibility with Windows
Speaking of computers and tablets, apparently Windows Phone 8 will run the same kernel as Windows 8 (as opposed to Windows CE in previous Windows-based mobile devices). Since Apollo will be using many of the same components as Windows 8 — not only the kernel, but Belifore also mentioned networking stacks, security, and multimedia support — developers will be able to reuse most of their code and have a much easier time when porting apps and software from the desktop to the phone. But don’t fret, WP7 users; despite the change in the kernel, current apps will still be backward compatible.
And aside from Windows 8 desktops and laptops, code from Android and iOS apps will be easily portable thanks to the addition of native code support for apps. This, in addition to the 100,000 apps that Microsoft expects to be available in the Marketplace at the time of Apollo’s launch (allegedly occurring sometime in Q4), are signs that the company is attempting to address the currently meager app selection, another weak link in the WP7 platform.
Unsurprisingly, WP7’s method of syncing by integrating with the Zune application is getting the axe. Seeing as Microsoft is no longer producing the Zune, it would seem odd to have its next generation phone platform continue to integrate with software sporting dead branding (which will eventually die out anyway since the actual hardware is finished). So instead, it plans on having Windows Phone 8 devices sync with a “dedicated companion application”.
Other Apollo features include Data Smart, Internet Explorer 10, and an attempt to appeal to the business demographic with native BitLocker encryption. Data Smart will not only track data usage, but also actively seek out and give precedence to Wi-Fi connections when they’re available, and Internet Explorer 10 will receive webpages that are fed to it from a proxy server, allowing for server-side compression. In short, it will cut down on the data usage necessary to view websites by a supposed 30%. And finally, the BitLocker encryption is a 128-bit, full-disk encryption that, according to PocketNow, is the same as what’s found on Microsoft’s recent desktop platforms.