Microsoft hosted a developer summit in San Francisco today, giving a glimpse of what Windows Phone 8 will look like and how it will work.
The tone was very much for developers, and as such was a bit techy. And while we’re still in the dark on a lot of user features, and general things that will most interest consumers (when it will arrive, for instance), it did serve to give a good flavour of what we can expect.
The emphasis was undoubtedly the cross compatibility between phones, tablets and PCs – Microsoft made a big deal out of the fact Windows Phone 8 shares its core with Windows 8 standard, and that it can be scaled and customized to various uses.
Eagle eyed readers may have noticed this is a sentiment rival Apple is vigorously pursuing as well, if its Mountain Lion/iOS presentations last week were anything to go by.
Other big things to note will be VoIP integration and multi-core processor support.
A lot of the presentation will go over the heads of the vast majority of us, but we’re told that support for native code and DirectX will be if benefit to coders, which basically means we’ll see more impressive and powerful apps. 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.”
Described on stage as ‘the sexiest thing in Windows 8’, the Start screen essentially gets replaced by dynamic tiles. A lot of customisation will be available, basically allowing you play around with not only the content, but also the size of tiles. For example, you can put a big picture up of your better half which you can press to make a call, or a selection of games you play a lot.
Windows Phone 8 will also make a lot of noise about NFC. The main products of this integration appears to me Wallet Hub – a bit of software that will support credit and debit cards, loyalty and membership cards, access to saved deals, secure NFC payments, that sort of thing.
Third part apps can drop coupons in your wallet, it can search for local deals (such as happy hour at a local pub) and you can 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.
This places it in competition with Apple’s recently announced iOS 6’s Passbook and Google Wallet, which could be a flash point of competition when it is eventually rolled out.
In Europe, Orange will be the first carrier to support Wallet Hub.
Microsoft gave a strong line in improving its mobile business offering too, with encryption and something called ‘Secure Boot’ and ‘Company Hub’ for apps. This makes sense for Microsoft, who admits since it has a few holes to fill on this front, such a heritage in business in desktops.
Other things mentioned were aspects of Internet Explorer 10 will alert you to unsafe links; NFC functionality such as scanning ads in print magazines or tagging business cards; support for standard 720p, WXGA 1280 by 768, and WVGA 800 by 480 displays; and a Micro SD card functionality.