Thursday, February 16, 2012

Windows Phone 8 details leak: Huge changes ahead


A leaked video has shed light on Microsoft's upcoming plans for Windows Phone 8 including deep Skype integration, the elimination of the Zune PC software, BitLocker encryption, NFC, multicore processor support, and a fundamental rewrite of the core of Windows Phone, better aligning its code base with Windows 8.

We’ve been speculating about the next versions of Windows Phone since 7.5 (Mango) came out in late 2011, and it looks like it might be worth the wait. PocketNow claims to have intercepted an official Microsoft video intended for Windows Phone partners like Nokia. In it, Windows Phone Manager Joe Belfiore goes over a lot of new features of the upcoming “Apollo” update, which appears to somewhat merge the Windows Phone OS with the core of Windows 8. Details below. 

Multicore processors: Dual-core and, presumably, quad-core processors will be supported.microSD: Finally, Windows Phone will add support for SD storage devices.Higher screen resolutions: 4 new resolutions will be offered outside of 480×800 (current standard). We don’t know what they are yet, unfortunately.NFC: Near-field communication will be supported, allowing users to make mobile payments or connect to other devices by simply tapping their phone. He made special mention of the mobile “Wallet experience,” which will replace credit cards with a phone app.Skype integration: Finally, Windows Phone will get deep Skype integration that lets it act more like an extension of the phone than an actual app. This makes sense since Microsoft now owns SkypeDataSmart: Like Android 4.0, WP8 will have a feature that lets you view how much data you are using in a given day or month.Local Scout Wi-Fi search: This isn’t entirely clear, but it looks like WP8 will more easily find and join available Wi-Fi hotspots offered by wireless carriers or other safe entities. Using the Local Scout app, you’ll easily be able to find nearby hotspots.Web page compression: Like Amazon’s Silk browser or Opera Mini, Microsoft will use its servers to help compress Web sites to help them load “30 percent” faster on mobile. Using the core of Windows 8: This has been hinted at for a while now, but it looks like Microsoft may swap out a good portion of the core Windows Phone OS for a modified version of Windows 8. We do not know how this will affect app development or if the 50,000 current apps will work on Windows Phone 8. It appears to be a huge shift. Windows 8 developers will be able to “reuse, by far, most of their code” when porting an application to Windows Phone 8.


No more Zune PC software: The Zune software is going away and will be replaced by a new application. What that is, we don’t know. Hopefully users don’t lose all of their song data or playlists they’ve made on Zune. Xbox Companion App for Windows 8: The Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone will get its own companion that will work for Windows 8 PCs. What exactly it will do, we don’t know, but Belfiore mentioned the ability to instantly have access to your music collection on your PC without the need for syncing.BitLocker encryption: That 128-bit full-disk encryption in Windows 8 will now be in the phone OS as well. 

These new features sound great, but they raise more questions than they answer. For example, if Microsoft is ridding itself of Zune and syncing, does it plan to completely revamp its music services? Will it still offer a subscription-based Zune Pass-like service or will it move to a cloud downloading service like Google Music or AmazonMP3? The way users consume movies, podcasts, and other media will be greatly impacted by how Microsoft handles its new software. Will the PC client still deliver updates to Windows Phone users? We just don’t know. The Skype integration is also a big question since wireless carriers do not like the idea of letting users make phone calls without using minutes on  a $40+ calling plan. Finally, Microsoft is essentially rewriting a good portion of the Windows Phone OS now. This will likely have many broad implications for developers and possibly users.

We’ll let you know when we find out more. The next version of Windows is rumored to arrive sometime later this year. 

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