Microsoft took to the stage to give developers a sneak peak at what to expect in the upcoming Windows Phone 8 release – due out later in 2012. I’ve already told you about the bad side of the update, and the cool new Start screen. Now I’m going to cover off all the developer goodies that Microsoft shared. Microsoft made it clear at a couple different points in the presentation, that they are only talking development features here. There is still a large number of features and enhancements that are consumer focused in Windows Phone 8 and they are not talking about that at this time. Those will come out at some point in the future.
The first thing you’ll want to know is that Microsoft is switching the Windows Phone 8 kernel from Windows CE to Windows. Apparently this is something they wanted to do from the start, but were unable to get it done in time. Starting with Windows Phone 8, the kernel will be shared with Windows. This means that you have the same core for Windows PC, Windows Tablets, Windows Servers, and now Windows Phone. Basically, this means that the two platforms will share common networking, security, media and web browser technology, and a common file system. The end result is better performance, more features, and new opportunities for app developers and device manufacturers.
Microsoft has stepped up the hardware requirements, adding in support for Multi-Core processors. And they didn’t just add dual or quad support to Windows Phone 8, they’ve been testing it against 64 cores! I think that’s going to be a safe limit for the next couple years anyway. Along with the multi-core support, Microsoft has increased the supported screen resolution. Of course, the default of 800×480 will still be supported, but so will 1280×768 and 1280×720, which opens the door for some pretty awesome 720p displays. Lastly, they are adding support for removable MicroSD storage cards. If anyone had the original Samsung Focus, you may remember that it had a MicroSD slot, but it was not a “removable” card because it was encrypted and merged with the internal file system. So removing it would result in a fresh new device. With Windows Phone 8, you can remove the card and use it for transferring music, video’s or even photo’s between your computer or another phone.
On the hardware front, things are looking really nice! You can expect some nicely powerful devices on the shelves this fall.
Internet Explorer 10
Native Code Support
Windows Phone 8 will support C and C++ code, as well as native DirectX. The end result will be easier and faster for developers to write apps for multiple platforms. Porting games from other platforms just became a whole lot easier. And once you’ve got an app on Windows Phone, you’ll be happy to hear that Microsoft has enabled In-App purchases!
Microsoft talked about “Compile in Cloud” where applications will automatically be compiled to machine code when submitted to the marketplace. This will allow apps to start faster and run faster. There is nothing that the developer needs to do for this. It will automatically happen when an application is submitted to the marketplace, and Microsoft will take care of doing this for the existing 100,000+ apps in the marketplace.
Windows Phone 8 will support more multi-tasking from applications. VoIP and Video Chat will now be allowed to run in the background while the user accesses other information on the phone – much like a regular phone call would today. VoIP and Video Chat protocols are baked in and accessible to all developers and not limited to Microsoft and/or Skype.
Location services will be allowed to run in the background. This is directly aimed at allowing navigation apps to get onboard.
The existing speech engine has been updated to support even more functionality. It already allowed you to launch applications, and read/respond to text messages. With Windows Phone 8, it will have more commands and provide the ability for conversations. Further, speech is also accessible via a control for developers to integrate into their applications.
NFC (Near Field Communication) is baked in from the word Go! And it’s fully accessible by developers by adding a control to their application. This means files, contacts, photos, and more can all be quickly and easily shared with others. Further, developers can tap into this for their apps. I can’t wait to start a multi-player game with my son and do nothing more than tapping the two phones together to link the game.
Microsoft billed this as the “most complete wallet experience” and that’s because the wallet can be paired with a secure SIM from your carrier, allowing NFC based Touch to Pay. The wallet itself, can hold debt and credit cards, coupons, boarding passes, and other important information.
Nokia Map Technology
I’ve talked about Nokia’s maps in my reviews of the Lumia 710 and 800. The overall map data was nice and the offline feature was great – just downloading them was a pain because it can be done in the background. Microsoft is bringing Nokia’s Map Technology to power Maps in Windows Phone 8, and they are touting the downloadable/offline functionality. I just hope they’ve improved the process for downloading maps. Nokia will also be providing Turn by Turn navigation for the maps. For developers, the maps will be accessible by simply adding a control to your application.
Here’s an area that many expected Microsoft to provide better support for on their first couple of releases. It’s nice to see some major steps forward for this.
Overall Windows Phone 8 has better security by improving the app sandbox, and supporting United Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). Microsoft has also included technology to encrypt the entire device including the OS and data files.
Enterprise will also have the ability to sign and deploy their own custom line of business applications to devices without posting the application in the marketplace. Microsoft has also provided a application catalog feature called “Company Hub” where enterprise customers can post recommend apps, news, alerts, and even profile details.
There’s still a lot of things we don’t know about Windows Phone 8, and this sneak peek held shed some light on where it’s headed. At this point we can only guess how some of these things are being implmented – like enterprise readiness and Nokia’s map technology. Once the SDK is available and Microsoft starts sharing more details around the new user features in Windows Phone 8, then we’ll have a much clearer idea of just what the future holds for Microsoft, its partners, and Windows Phone 8.