In the continuing quest to topple Apple and Google's stranglehold on the smartphone market, Microsoft gave us an insight into the Windows Phone 7 successor Windows Phone 8 at the same developer summit that saw the official unveiling of the Microsoft Surface tablet.
Clearly inspired by the tablet and PC optimized Windows 8 operating system, Microsoft have yet to reveal a release date for when we can expect to see Windows Phone 8 smartphones, but we did get a taste of what we can expect. Here's eight things we know about Windows Phone 8 so far.
The 'Metro' interface makes a return, so you can expect another slick-looking tiled dashboard, like you'd expect to see in the new Xbox 360 dashboard. Windows Phone 8 will bring far more customization and colour to the interface, letting you decide what tiles you want, and where you want them.
Microsoft has been talking up bringing mobile and PC devices closer together, so Windows Phone 8 will share its core principles and build with Windows 8, which means the OS can be scaled to various uses. This sort of compatibility looks like it'll be key, if Apple's Mountain Lion and iOS6 presentations were anything to go by.
Microsoft Corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore claimed that Windows Phone 8 would outperform leading Android handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, and the iPhone 4S. Bold claims indeed. Naturally, the new mobile OS supports multi-core processors, but it also supports DirectX, which hopefully will allow new handsets to map uncharted territory in the mobile gaming frontier. Belfiore said: “We're going to see some freakin' killer games this year. We will see more apps, bigger important apps coming faster and some unbelievably beautiful games.”
NFC & Wallet Hub
Windows Phone 8 will be using Near Field Communication technology in a big way, including scanning ads in magazine and tagging business cards. The most important use mentioned thus far is that of Microsoft Wallet Hub - a new piece of software equivalent to Apple's Passbook and Google Wallet, that allows you to use your credit and debit cards, as well as membership and loyalty cards via your mobile device.
Third party apps can drop coupons in your wallet; it can search for local deals like happy hours, you can even enter all your financial details and use the phone to buy bigger things should you wish. It also allows in-app purchases, which has potential to give a boost to the number of apps of its Marketplace.
Microsoft has a real tradition and heritage in producing solid business solutions for its computing platforms, and the company freely admits that it has holes to fill in this area. Details on Microsoft 'Secure Boot' and 'Company Hub' are thin on the ground, but Microsoft intends to invest a great deal into it's mobile business solutions for Windows Phone 8.
Connectivity & Integration
Windows Phone 8 has shelved Bing Maps as its integrated map client, and brought Nokia Maps on board as a replacement. As expected, Internet Explorer 10 will be the integrated web browser, and will include many of the features that are part of the main IE10 build, including important safety features such as alerting you if you're linking to unsafe content.
Windows Phone 8 smartphones
While Microsoft did not show off any hardware, it did announce that stable mate Nokia as well as Samsung, HTC and Huawei will be making Windows Phone 8 smartphones all of which will be packed with Qualcomm chipset architecture powering them inside.
The bad news for Windows Phone 7 users...
Microsoft is pitching Windows Phone 8 as a massive technological shift from Windows Phone 7 which basically translates into the fact that the mobile OS update will not be compatible with existing Windows Phone 7 handsets. What Microsoft will be offering is the ability to add the new-look home screen with an upcoming Windows Phone 7.8 update, but if you want the full Windows Phone 8 experience you are going to have save up for the new handset.