Microsoft’s sneak peak at WP8 detailed
Boom. Microsoft’s Windows Phone Summit just concluded, where the Redmond based company gave a sneak peek at the next big thing to happen to Windows Phone, after Nokia – Windows Phone 8 Apollo. It’s got me excited, to be really honest. Even though it’s a sneak peek, and there’s tons more to come, I’m listing stuff that’s exciting and that you, the end users, should know. Let’s get going, then!
Shared Core: With a shared core, It will be come easy to develop for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. it also means that a lot of features and functionalities will be naturally available to Windows Phone 8. What this translates to is detailed below as separate features by themselves.
Support for MicroSD cards: Finally! Yes. Windows Phone 8 will support microSD cards, viz., external storage. You can speculate about a file system coming to Apollo, and a File Manager, as a result. Up front Microsoft has confirmed that you will be able to sideload pictures, documents, music and the biggest of them all, Apps onto your Windows Phone. However right now there’s no clarity on folder creation ability.
Multi core processors: Oh yes. Windows Phone Mango is very fast, but some games lag. With the transition to the newer kernel, it will be possible for Windows Phone 8 to actually use the next generation hardware, which when translated into consumer speak means dual core processors and may be even quad core, thought Microsoft has lightly hinted that it wants dual cores to be exploited fully before moving to quad cores. Microsoft also has stated that the current kernel allows Windows Phone 8 to run on a 64 core processor architecture as well. This also means that the graphics processing ability will see improvement in WP8. The adoption of Direct X along with native coding will mean a superior experience during gaming and also when doing intensive tasks on the phone.
Multiple screen resolutions support: Three different screen resolutions will be supported - 800 x 480 (15:9), 1280×768 (15:9), and 1280×720 (16:9). Should help them upscale and downscale, in a more easier way. Joe Belfiore stated that the changes in the screen size would not make existing apps incompatible and that developers could leave the apps as it is and they would automatically support the newer screen resolutions, or if they wanted to exploit the newer screen resolutions modify their app just that little bit, which basically means that the screen resolutions getting better might not be a problem for the developer and his app after all.
Internet Explorer 10 Mobile: If you’ve tried Internet Explorer 10, on a Windows 8 preview version, you’ll know it’s nothing like any older version of IE. It’s really fast, and IE 10 Mobile will use the same HTML rendering as the desktop version. The Sun Spider scores also showed how much of an improvement IE10 brings over the current crop of phones and their browsers. Really nice stuff, can’t wait to for WP8. Better yet, it also features SmartScreen anti-phishing. Should hopefully help you from visiting scamming websites. An aside: Joe Belfiore stated in the slides that the IE 10 Mobile is faster than Samsung Galaxy S3′s browser. If that’s true, then that will be a great addition. IE 9 Mobile currently, is very slow.
Native Code access to Windows Phone 8 Developers: What does that mean, you ask? Great games, cool apps, and stuff like that. This basically should let you fall in love with Windows Phone. This will allow developers to quickly roll out Windows Phone versions of their app and also to roll out a ‘mobile’ version of their app and game. So it might be quite possible for games to be made for the PC and also be rolled out for the Windows Phone 8. Developers, you can truly rejoice! In order to improve the adoption, four gaming middleware partners have said that they will be bringing their expertise to Windows Phone 8 – Havok, AudioKinetic, Fmod and Autodesk. Havok Technology, showcased its middleware solution and also stated that they were able to port their solution to Windows Phone 8 platform in a couple of weeks. FYI, these guys are behind some of the amazing effects seen in Assassin’s Creed.
Native NFC support: What does this mean? This means that your phone will ensure that you can use NFC between compatible devices, not restricted by the manufacturer/carrier. it is a great push for NFC. Microsoft has also added a Wallet app, aptly called the Wallet Hub where you can add basically any card – debit, credit, library cards, membership and loyalty cards and NFC Tap-to-pay support. It will also allow banking and related apps to link to this Hub, so if a bank had it’s app, it will be able to link to Wallet Hub and provide you with the info that you are requesting and also push other requests and account balance details. This solution is what can be in many ways considered to be an improvement over Google Wallet and iOS 6′s newest feature – PassBook. FYI, you will be able to add a ‘Pin’ to the app so as to authorize payments and transactions, this should prevent any unnecessary transactions, should anyone else get a hold on your phone.
The Wallet Hub solution and Window Phone 8, both will be an inclusive solution and not a fractured one like Google’s current implementation of Wallet, where certain carriers have sought its removal. At least that’s what Joe Belfiore wants us to believe.
Nokia Maps: Nokia Maps will be integrated into Windows Phone itself, this integration will be very deep, in the sense that all the first party database and points of interest will be filled in by Nokia Maps. The other addition is that all the functionality that one expects from it – offline accessibility, ability to download specific portions of a map, turn by turn navigation, etc. will also come to Windows Phone. In other words, maps on any Windows Phone, will now be Nokia Maps. In addition to this Nokia Maps will also be able to track all the various routes you take for a predetermined place regularly, say and office, and then with the information available like traffic updates suggest you which route to take to avoid the congestion or to reach faster.
Business features: Windows Phone 8 will include full-device, hardware-accelerated encryption with BitLocker and always-on Secure Boot capabilities, just like Windows 8. Also, it will support additional Exchange ActiveSync policies and System Center configuration settings and inventory capabilities. Businesses will be able to distribute phone apps privately as they can with Windows 8 apps and therefore bypass the Marketplace completely. IT administrators and managers will also be able to use existing device management software and policies to manage the new Windows Phone 8 devices. This translates into a business friendly device and a secure device too.
Re-sizable Tiles: You get three different sizes of live tiles, now – large “double-wide,” standard medium, and small. And oh, you can resize any Live Tile, as you deem fit. I like this part. Also, gone will the current left margin alignment. All the tiles will be centrally aligned in a manner to eliminate the black area. With dynamic resizing, app developers will be able to re-purpose what goes on to their Live Tiles. It will also mean that a lot more things can be squeezed on the start screen. I’m not sure whether this is Microsoft’s answer to the notification tile we were asking for, but as of now this all that they’ve given us.
Better back-grounding: VoIP and Location-based apps won’t shut down when in the background. This is good news as it will allow some amount of background apps to run and generally improve multitasking. However since the extent of multitasking is not know, I can’t comment on it until I try it out.
Which brings me to… Skype! Skype will be highly improved, with high-level access to APIs. It will still be a separate app, but won’t feel like one. In fact, any developer can build a VoIP app with deep integration into Windows Phone 8. The Ux will be similar so now the developer will not have to create a front end for his VoIP solution. Sounds good.
New Speech, voice recognition system: Developers can use it in their apps. Users? They can communicate with their apps! Wow. And while we’re at it, Audible for Windows Phone is here! Available starting today on all Windows Phone 7.5 device and upwards.
In plain speak, it will work like Siri, but will be able to do more than just respond to your queries. When used in conjunction with Nokia maps, once you’ve set a course for a location, it will also speak up and inform you of diversion that you might need to take in order to beat traffic jams and additionally suggest if it can message someone you are supposed to meet or pick up that you will be delayed. That’s definitely taking it further than what it can currently do.
Local Scout: Now will allow personal recommendations and will also show listing and any offers it has going on, once you’ve bought or downloaded the offer, you will be able to save the coupon in Wallet Hub for redemption at the time of billing. This takes local scout from being just a ‘scout’ to more than that. Interesting to note is how carefully Microsoft is weaving the interoperability of its various apps. This will make usability superfluous for the end user and thereby allowing for greater uptake of features, apps, and technology in general.
Data Smart: This will let you keep a tab on the data consumption, and avoid bill shocks that can arise due to unchecked data consumption.
In-app purchases will be possible via the Windows Marketplace. This will allow developers to concentrate on providing top notch apps and not worry about creating a payment collection mechanism.
Support for 50+ languages: Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi are just some of the languages which will be natively supported by Windows Phone 8. This support is not just for reading but will also extend to inputting, in other words you will have a full keypad which will let you type in any of the 50 languages supported by Windows Phone 8.
SkyDrive integration: Microsoft will make your content available on all of its platforms via SkyDrive.
Draw Something, Words with Friends coming soon apart from Asphalt 7 and N.O.V.A 3 by Gameloft. It’s clear that we will see faster rollouts of games on the Windows Phone platform now.
And the last bit is the best one – Software updates OVER THE AIR. No need to connect your phone to the PC, anymore! Good? Okay. Then what about this – if you register as an ‘enthusiast’ with Microsoft, you will get updates before others. A.MAZING. I’ll do this the first moment I know where to. Don’t worry, I’ll let you guys know about this, too!
Aside, they also said that every Windows Phone, beginning from Windows Phone 8, will be supported for 18 months = any OS update in that duration, will be released for your device as well.
Existing Windows Phone 7.x users won’t be getting Windows Phone 8, though. Single bad news from today, but that was expected by everyone. The shift from Mango to Apollo is huge. I really mean it. There’s a major under-the-hood change, but the WP7.x users will get the new Start screen, and some more goodies in the form of Windows Phone 7.8. We’ll fill you in as soon as we have the details on that.
Among the OEMs, Nokia, Samsung, Huawei and HTC will be the first ones to release Windows Phone 8 hardware. I expected the three of them, but Huawei is a surprise addition!
In case you want to check out Joe Belfiore’s post on what’s new in Windows Phone 8, here’s a quick link to it.