Not only has Microsoft finally unveiled its attempt at de-throne Apple’s iPad with their Surface tablet, the software giant lifted the lid on Windows Phone 8 – the latest update to their mobile operating system.
The biggest announcement was that the company would continue to based its hardware partners around ARM processors, with Microsoft confirming that multi-core handsets from Nokia, HTC and Samsung are on there way to the burgeoning operating system.
Unveiled at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco, Windows Phone 8 will accompany the main PC and tablet operating system Windows Phone when it launches in October.
Microsoft announced a slight change in direction with the software-giant looking to steal some market share from Blackberry and their lucrative corporate accounts.
A New Focus
There are a host of new features that will look to lure Blackberry users away from the beleaguered handset maker. New features include new security, improved support for corporate email and further integration with Microsoft Office.
One welcome change means that developers will be able to write apps and programs once, as they will work on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox.
Those of you who enjoy arranging your own live tiles, you will be glad to know the Start screen has been overhauled, with new sizes of tile available, so you can tailor the screen to your needs.
A Raw Deal For Early Adopters
Unfortunately, existing Windows Phone users will not be getting Windows Phone 8. Instead they’ll get a stripped-down version called Windows Phone 7.8. It still offers most of the interface improvements, only the new range of handsets will get the new OS.
This is because screen support has also been upgraded, meaning there will be three choices to developers to work with: 1280 x 768, 1280 x 720 as well as the current 800 x 480 WVGA specs, so apps designed for the new platform won’t be able to run certain applications – but all older apps will run on the new OS and handsets.
Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Windows Phone, said that existing phones would not be able to make the full upgrade because the new software was built to take advantage of certain hardware capabilities – such as dual-core processors – which existing Windows Phone handsets did not have.
“The underpinnings of Windows Phone 7 are the primary reason we haven’t had support for multicore chips … it’s why we haven’t had LTE [high-speed mobile broadband] on CDMA [the data system used by Verizon], which requires [the next-generation internet protocol] IPv6, and why we haven’t taken advantage of the latest generation of SOCs [system on chips],” Sullivan said.
Microsoft made a big splash about NFC and the new tech will be a big part of the new Windows Phone 8 release, with a new service to rival Google’s Wallet, cleverly name Microsoft Wallet.
The new system will allow you to make payments by swiping your phone on a credit card reader – you’ll be able to store anything from a gym memberships to hopefully your oyster card.
Even better news is that you won’t be tied to Microsoft’s payment service’, you will able to set the Microsoft wallet with other services like Paypal.
Other minor changes come in the form of SD card support, something that Windows Phone users have been demanding since its inception. You’ll be able to store media files on the card, and also install applications on it should your phone’s internal storage get too low.
Skype Finally Baked In From The Ground Up
Microsoft is finally going to make use of Skype which it acquired last year for an eye-watering 8 billion dollars. VOIP calls are going to be baked in from the ground up – the calls will look just like a regular calls, with the same features and notifications.
In terms of a Windows Phone 8 release date, it’s currently set for ‘autumn/fall 2013 – lets just hope they get in out in time for Christmas.