Microsoft Announce Windows Phone 8

Just days after the Microsoft Surface tablet event, MS held another – this time to officially announce Windows Phone 8.

There were a lot of announcements, a lot of news – some good, some bad, a lot of innovations and a lot of reasons to get a Windows Phone 8 device. I’ll try and cover them off as best I can here:

New Start Screen

The Start Screen with it’s Metro interface and Live Tiles is one of the key eye grabbers of Windows Phone and it’s being improved in Windows Phone 8 (and 7.8 but we’ll come to that later).

First up is a new, third size for tiles giving us “small, medium & large” with the new “small” size enabling users to fit more on their home screen.

Secondly, Microsoft are removing the blank strip down the right hand side of the screen (you know, with the side arrow at the top), giving users a fair bit more screen real estate to play with.

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They’re also going to be expanding the number of colours available.

NFC

Near Field Communication (NFC) is going to be integrated right into WP8, enabling payments by waving your phone at things, the ability to store card details, store cards etc and more…essentially a combination of Google Wallet & Apple Passbook with extras on top. It will also enable each pairing with a range of accessories such as, and I only discovered these today, Nokia’s NFC enabled speakers…you just touch your phone to them and BOOM – connected. These are available for Nokia’s current range of NFC enabled Symbian devices so I can only assume WP8 will be invited to the party. Another feature will be the ability to “bump” phones and transfer contact details etc…cool and useful for trade shows, impromptu meetings etc…I’m sure I’d end up using it all the time.

SD Support

Proper SD support is coming to Windows Phone 8 devices. SD cards that can be used as true removable storage…transfer music, pictures, documents and also install apps!

Windows 8 Core

This is a huge one – MS are moving away from the former Windows CE core and instead implementing the same NT Kernel as the new Windows 8 desktop OS! This means that file system, media, drivers and a lot of the security will be the same across desktop & mobile; allowing many of the features mentioned above as well as games/apps that can move between the two. That last point will make for a great user experience as well as making things much easier and more attractive for developers – which is always a good thing!

Another thing enabled by the move to the NT Kernel is multi-core processor support which will drive the next generation of WP mobile apps and games.

Internet Explorer 10

IE 10 will be on Windows Phone 8 bring the SmartScreen URL screening & phishing protection. That’s about all the news on that for now though…

VOIP Integration

VOIP is going to be “industry leading” when it comes to integration on WP8, with not just Skype but also Tango et al becoming “first class” app; giving them deep integration into things such as the People Hub and the dialler. The next crop of WP8 devices will surely (nearly) all come with front facing cameras – those 2 things combined could help to make video calling as ubiquitous as people have been predicting for years.

Enterprise Features

One of the (quite) valid criticisms levelled at WP 7/7.5 is its lack of Enterprise features; in some areas it was actually less feature rich than Windows Mobile 6.5. New business centric features WP8 will bring include:

  • On-Device Encryption
  • Device Management
  • Line Of Business (LOB) app support
  • Private market places for internal business app distribution
  • Side-Loading

Now for the bad news…

This ISN’T coming to existing Windows Phone devices. None of them. Not the Lumia 800. Not the Lumia 900. None of them.

Yes, if you’ve just upgraded to a shiny new Lumia (or other WP device) that is a bit of a rage-inducing moment but hey, there’s always Mazuma and Envirofone Open-mouthed smile

Microsoft have taken quite a brave step of angering some people to make wholesale changes that straight away move Windows Phone to the front of the mobile pack. Yes those recent adopters will be a bit annoyed but when their contracts come up for renewal again it seems likely that WP devices will be the best on market so they’ll be able to stick with it going forwards.

One thing that IS coming to current handsets is the new, improved Start Screen under the Windows Phone 7.8 update. Although it doesn’t bring the new features it does make an already great mobile OS even more aesthetically pleasing.

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