Microsoft hasn’t been content with merely revealing a new tablet, the Surface, this week, and has also gone ahead and unveiled the next version of its mobile OS, which is expected out towards the end of the year.
Windows Phone 8 will employ the same kernel, networking, security, file systems and core architecture as Windows 8 itself, knitting the world of smartphones, tablets and computers more tightly together.
End users will be able to enjoy the familiarity of the same Metro style apps and interface across all their devices, and developers will be able to program apps across those devices with a minimum of effort.
Windows Phone 8 also opens up the doors on the hardware front for the handsets which carry Microsoft’s OS, and as we’ve previously noted, it will allow for devices with multi-core processors.
Sharper screen resolutions are also supported – 1280×768 and 1280×720 – the latter of course being 720p high definition.
Windows Phone 8 also brings with it NFC wireless sharing, so you can tap to transfer a document, for example, and further support for extra storage space in the form of microSD cards.
The OS will also boast Internet Explorer 10, and a digital wallet, along with improved mapping and navigation features. Finally, WP8 will have a new start screen with much increased customisation options (with three sizes of Live tiles, for example).
However, as we expected, current owners of Windows Phone 7.5 handsets won’t be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8, as the older hardware isn’t powerful enough to handle the new incarnation of the OS.
Instead, for these users, Microsoft is producing Windows Phone 7.8, which comes with the new start screen, and will be deployed following Windows Phone 8′s release.
On the Windows Phone blog, Joe Belfiore wrote: “Windows Phone 8 is a generation shift in technology, which means that it will not run on existing hardware. BUT we care deeply about our existing customers and want to keep their phones fresh, so we’re providing the new Start screen in this new update.”
It isn’t clear whether Microsoft will be pushing other features across aside from the start screen, but it doesn’t seem like that will be the case. And there are certainly some unhappy punters out there who have just bought a Windows Phone 7.5 handset, and are now scratching their heads as to why they didn’t wait for Windows Phone 8 devices to emerge later this year.
Indeed, will Microsoft’s OS shift many handsets now, given this development, until WP8 emerges? We guess carriers will now be discounting heavily on the current hardware, though, so that might help shift some units.