This week, we just heard about what new features will be coming to Apple’s iOS 6 this year. Some of the things like Facebook integration are catching up to Windows Phone, while other features like Apple’s speech UI are extending their lead. So what are you expecting Microsoft’s response to this to be come June 20th in San Francisco when Microsoft is expected to announce Windows Phone 8?
WPCentral suggests that there will be a few big new features in Windows Phone 8 that will compete with Apple’s announcement. For example, Nokia will bring its mapping data to Windows Phone as an integrated part of the operating system as opposed to just a separate app like on Windows Phone 7. We’ll also see Nokia’s 3D map data coming to Windows Phone with GPS navigation support for hopefully a fully-integrated solution. Right now, it’s difficult to set a search result from Bing or Local Scout as a destination in Nokia Drive or any other GPS Navigation software. 3D is cool and all, but what would be really useful for the Windows Phone 8 Maps app is a layers API kind of like what Bing Maps on the desktop already has. That would allow multiple third party applications to layer data on the same map at the same time without the need to launch separate apps in order to see related location data.
Another area where Windows Phone really needs to step up is the speech UI. Back in 2003, Microsoft was way ahead of the game with Voice Command on Windows Mobile. Now that Siri has become so popular for Apple users, it’s time to bring that kind of innovation back from the dead and get the integrated speech UI working throughout. Windows Phone is still missing speech UI hooks for controlling music and GPS navigation, not to mention interacting with calendar appointments. My main wish is for Microsoft’s Speech UI to offer API’s that can extend it to 3rd party applications. That’s what will really improve the usefulness of a centralized Speech UI in a smartphone and we’ve been waiting for that kind of thing since 2003.
We’re all expecting Skype to be an integrated part of Windows Phone 8 as well, but WPCentral suggests that VoIP in general will be supported so that any kind of VoIP provider will be able to plug into Windows Phone 8 for easy access from your contacts (in addition to Skype). The old Windows Mobile used to have a feature like this that made VoIP fully integrated with the phone dialer and contacts listing, but very few people knew about it. You used to be able to use Vonage with Windows Mobile even! It’s exciting to think that this feature might be coming back to Windows Phone in what sounds like a much more flexible and extendable manner. Perhaps it will be possible for 3rd party developers to creating interfaces for other video calling services like Google Chat and, dare I say… Facetime? (Just kidding, Apple would never allow that.)
I would love to see a lot of the little things resolved as well. Things like syncing draft emails and reply/forward status to IMAP & Exchange 2003 servers, a better “Notifications” collection area perhaps in the Me tile, more support for integrated Facebook features like tagging people in check-ins, etc. A plug-in for Google+ on Windows Live Social that syncs with Windows Phone 8’s “What’s New” tabs could be nice.
While there were some rumors that Apple would introduce a better way for 3rd party apps to integrate and communicate with each other, you’ll most likely see this kind of thing come to Windows Phone 8. Remember that Windows 8 already has API’s for apps to integrate with each other. A photo editor app can load images from SkyDrive or any other photo sharing app that uses the APIs. A blogging app like WordPress can share articles with Facebook, Twitter, and any other app that supports the share charm. We’ve already seen some great app-to-app communications in Windows Phone 7, so it seems logical that Microsoft would improve upon that concept of a fully integrated and extendable environment.
Don’t forget all of the Windows Phone 8 details we heard about in February either. We can expect to hear about multi-core processor support, multiple screen resolutions, and integrated NFC support.
So what do you think? Will the Windows Phone 8 announcement next week top Apple’s iOS 6 announcement? What other features are you hoping to hear about?