As expected, Microsoft‘s second big unveiling of the week after their Surface tablets was a first look at the highly-anticipated Windows Phone 8 OS. Most people will probably be happy to see that it retains the aesthetically pleasing ’tile’ layout of its predecessor, while also containing plenty of changes beneath the surface that will make the OS more accessible for both users and developers. Below is a list of the big changes
Switching to the NT kernel
A big problem for Windows Phone 7 was that it was based on the old Windows CE core, meaning that it couldn’t support multiple processors, microSD storage or device encryption. Because WP 8 runs on essentially the same Core as Windows 8, all the aforementioned limitations are no more. NFC and screen resolutions of up to 720p will also be supported.
WP 8 will run managed code in a similar way to the desktop version of Windows 8, making it easier for developers to port apps between WP 8 and other mobile OS’s. Furthermore, all the current WP 7 apps will be able to run on it as well.
WP 8 retains the bold and colourful look that defined its predecessor, but an improved Start screen is now more customisable, allowing you to change tile sizes, reading texts straight from it, and giving more flexibility with all the pretty colours.
Having Skype apps on smartphones is all well and good, but it never felt quite like you could use the VoIP app seamlessly alongside your normal calling functions.
In WP 8, downloaded VoIP apps will be integrated directly into the phone dialer and contacts lists. Microsoft’s Greg Sullivan went so far as to suggest that Apple should release FaceTime for WP 8, as ‘it’ll actually be better integrated on Windows Phone than it is on the iPhone.’
Nokia Maps will be the first-party map app of choice
With Nokia and Microsoft expected to continue being bed-buddies for the foreseeable future, it’s unsurprising that they’ll be behind the official WP 8 maps feature.
Nokia’s NAVTEQ data will be behind the feature, and will allow offline usage as well as more up-to-date mapping coverage than Microsoft’s previously-used Bing service.
No Windows Phone 8 for current Windows Phone 7 handsets
It’ll come as sobering but unsurprising news for current WP handset owners that they won’t be getting the WP 8 update, which is expected to start being distributed this fall. That being said, a Windows Phone 7.8 update will be released at around the same time, and it’s hoped that that will borrow some of the functionality of the impressive-looking WP 8 OS.
With SDK kits and other developer tools expected to get rolled out soon, and with the new kernel allowing for unprecedented portability of apps between Windows, Windows Phone and rival OS’s, could it be that Microsoft’s time as a big player in the smartphone game has come?
[via: The Verge]