Microsoft had two events this week to highlight releases for the Windows 8 platform. The first was the Surface tablet on Monday. Today’s announcement introduced Windows Phone 8, the new operating system for Windows Phones.
Windows Phone 8 is taking bold steps to unify Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. The Summit reflected how much effort Microsoft put into making things easier for developers so software can communicate seamlessly through various hardware.
When Microsoft releases Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, both could really unify the PC experience. The presentation contained major announcements and then a demo of the operating system.
8 Platform Announcements
Microsoft started the Windows Phone Summit announcements by releasing information about new required devices. The specifications are a good indicator of why Window Phone 8 will only be available on new hardware.
- Multi-core chipsets
- 3 screen resolutions (800×480, 1280×768, 1280×720)
- MicroSD support
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore talked a lot about the scalability of apps and how they will all display on Windows Phone 8.
Internet Explorer 10
It was obvious that IE10 would be included on Windows Phone 8, but it might actually be useful.
Microsoft is moving toward a unified developer experience with Native Code. With a common platform, developers can create apps that will function on both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 without having to create two separate versions. It’s a way Microsoft can connect the two markets.
Near field communication (NFC)
Using NFC is a big plan for the Windows platform. It can connect NFC devices together and also open possibilities for different uses of the standard. NFC was demoed in more detail later in the presentation.
While Apple has Passbook in iOS 6, Microsoft Wallet is expanding beyond payments. They revealed that they have been working with Orange, a mobile carrier in France, testing Wallet. Third party developers can integrate Wallet into their apps as well.
Microsoft took a small jab at Google with their NFC deployment by claiming mobile carriers aren’t welcoming of their integration on devices, but Belfiore said that Wallet will be included on every Windows Phone 8 because NFC is included on the SIM card.
Nokia Map technology
By revealing that Nokia Maps will include offline maps and turn-by-turn directions, Microsoft is now ensuring that Windows Phone 8 will become a more versatile device.
Windows Phone 8 for Business
The business enterprise version of Windows Phone 8 will offer a lot of added security for corporate users.
Start Screen changes
This may not have been the biggest development announcement, but changes to the Start Screen will allow customization. You can resize titles and create smaller sets of tiles that still function in the same way. In the demo, apps still updated, but they displayed different levels of information based on the size of the tile.
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore showed off some of the new features in Windows Phone 8 during the live demo. He stressed that the device he was using wasn’t a consumer product, but a test device. He also used a Windows 8 Slate, admitting that he didn’t have the Surface because the tablets were all in Los Angeles for the Microsoft’s Monday announcement.
Belfiore showed off how to customize Live Tiles and a HTML5 site in Internet Explorer 10 to demo Smart Screen functionality. It was nice to see that IE10 could screen for malicious sites, but the animation on the HTML5 site was much more impressive because there wasn’t any stuttering or lag.
He then showed a game demo that originally existed in the Windows 8 Software Development Kit (SDK) that was re-designed for Windows Phone 8. The demo didn’t use touchscreen, just the device’s accelerometer, but it illustrated the ease of developing for both platforms because it looked almost identical.
NFC was a big part of the demo. Using an NFC magazine ad, Belfiore showed how Windows Phone 8 could receive the information to open a website on the device. He also demoed a NFC tagged business card and how it could send the information from the card.
That same function could be used to send data from one device to another. Called Tap + Send, two NFC devices could share data. Using Spell It, a third party app, he set up a game between the Windows Phone 9 8 and Windows 8 Slate through NFC.
Microsoft also focused a lot of time on Wallet showing different sections, like Deals and in-app purchases. Users will be able to include more than just payment services, because Belfiore had his San Francisco Public Library card in the app using a QR code.
Microsoft also revealed the sad truth that Windows Phone 7.5 users won’t be able to update their operating systems. Instead, there will be a new Windows Phone 7.8 update that will primarily include the new Start Screen and other features.
The second half of the Summit addressed how Windows Phone 8 would be good for developers. Microsoft focused on Native Code and software partners that would release their SDK for games like Havok.
Also announced was a big push for multitasking, and an example was given with VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and video chat. Skype was used in the example and showed how a call would look the same as a normal phone call, except that you could switch between the app and the regular call manager.
The talk about multitasking also brought up location apps keeping track in the background. Location based apps would be able to keep track of your position while in the background without causing a big hit to battery life.
Microsoft also demoed using Speech for app control. They used Audible with speech commands to control the app, find a specific book, open a chapter, start the app, and pause it, all with voice commands.
Microsoft wrapped up the summit by reviewing the presentation.
Windows Phone 7.5 users will get the update to 7.8 with the new Start Screen. Windows Phone 8 users will get Over-the-Air (OTA) updates and 18 months of device support. Windows Phone 7 apps will run on Windows Phone 8 without problems.
Microsoft’s release of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 appears to unify mobile devices to PCs and tablets. The announcements at the Windows Phone Summit show the improvements that Microsoft planned. From an interface perspective, there the new Start Screen adds customization, but adding NFC support and expanding on the use is personally more appealing.
Microsoft haven’t yet announced a launch date for Windows Phone 8, but it is quickly becoming an operating system to watch.