Microsoft announced the latest version of its smartphone software called Windows Phone 8 on Wednesday, coming in smartphones this Autumn.
Windows Phone 8, code-named Apollo, will share core code with Microsoft's forthcoming Windows 8 computer software. According to Microsoft, this would allow for easier cross-platform software development between all versions of Windows 8. Windows 8 for computers and Windows 8 Mobile will share a range of components including graphic drivers, the DirectX collection of application programming interfaces (APIs) and the NT kernel that ties application software to the hardware it is installed on. They can also both support native code in the C and C++ programming languages.
Microsoft said this should not only make it easier to port software between the two environments, but should speed up the time it takes developers to recode programs originally built for iOS and Android.
Expect the new mobile OS to support multicore processors, NFC with a mobile payments wallet, three screen resolutions (800x480, 1280x768, and 1280x720) microSD card slots, Internet Explorer 10 (complete with anti-phising technology). Nokia's mapping technology will also be built-in to Windows Phone 8. In addition, the update also allows internet call software based on VoIP and video chat technologies to run in the background. This addresses a complaint that the firm's own Skype program could not be used to receive calls while its owner was using another application - a function offered on rival platforms.
Microsoft also plans to bring a new Start Screen interface to existing devices through a Windows Phone 7.8 software update.
Although Microsoft did not provide details of its Windows Phone 8 UI changes, it said tha new Start Screen would include support for tiles across the entire screen and a new smaller tile layout. Users will have the choice of three tile sizes to represent installed software and more colour options.
Microsoft also announced that Gameloft's Nova 3 and Zynga's Draw Something were coming to Windows Phone.
The company added current devices, which run on Windows Phone 7.5, will not be able to update to Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7.5 users will be offered an update that includes the new software's start screen but excludes other features.
Microsoft also said that Qualcomm will be the sole provider of dual core SoCs for initial launch devices from hardware partners Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and HTC.
The company is also trying to bring Windows Phone 8 into the workplace, introducing a number of features and capabilities that companies and their IT departments demand.
Some of the new business-friendly features include:
- Device encryption: To help keep everything from documents to passwords safe, Windows Phone 8 includes built-in technology to encrypt the entire device, including the operating system and data files.
- Better security: Windows Phone 8 supports the United Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) secure boot protocol and features improved app "sandboxing," so the phone is better protected from malware with multiple layers of security.
- Remote management: With Windows Phone 8, IT departments can manage apps and phones remotely, with tools similar to ones they now employ for Windows PCs.
- Company Hub and apps: Companies can create their own Windows Phone 8 Hub for custom employee apps and other critical business info.
Windows Phone 8 will also support a total of 50 languages, or double the current geographic coverage. The company is also expanding Marketplace, its store for apps and games, to support app downloads in over 180 countries - nearly triple its current footprint.
Windows Phone software updates will be also improved for Windows Phone 8. First, Windows Phone 8 updates will be delivered wirelessly over-the-air. Second, Microsoft will support devices with updates for at least 18 months from device launch. Finally, the company is working to create a program that gives registered enthusiasts early access to updates prior to broad availability.