Microsoft shook things up earlier this week with the announcement of its Surface tablets, which are looking like they could be the mobile device highlights of the Windows 8 launch. That’s not the only big news Microsoft has been preparing us for this week, as today marks the company’s Windows Phone Summit. Microsoft promised a “sneak peak” at where Windows Phone is headed, and sure enough, has now formally announced the coming arrival of Windows Phone 8 this holiday season.
The company’s Joe Belfiore discussed some of the fundamental changes in store for WP8, like moving to a system that shares a good deal of code with the full Windows 8 release, including its kernel and certain subsystems like networking and driver support. Rather than ruin all the Windows Phone 8 surprises right now, Belfiore instead focused on a few key features.
First up is multi-core support, with dual-core arriving from the outset. Belfiore confirmed new screen resolutions, but instead of the four total we had heard rumored, WP8 will instead support three: 800 x 480, 1280 x 768, and 1280 x 720 – there’s no mention of the 640 x 480 that had been suggested.
Like Microsoft’s Surface tablets, WP8 hardware will support removable microSD expansion. Apps can be loaded from these cards, possibly opening the door for new distribution methods. As expected, WP8 will include Internet Explorer 10, which should deliver a desktop-quality browsing experience, thanks to it using the same rendering and layout engine as the full PC release.
Developers have complained about the hassle in not getting to develop apps running native code without Microsoft’s blessing; this looks like it’s changing in WP8, and Microsoft is looking to see a bunch of new high-performance titles developed for the platform, with a focus on gaming. With support for DirectX, porting PC games is supposed to now be a breeze.
NFC support is coming, and along with that, Microsoft will have its own mobile wallet. In order to avoid the setbacks Google faced with its own Wallet, Microsoft is giving carriers more control over things by having them issue their own secure SIMs, and its system will support ISIS, the payment cabal Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are on-board with.
Sure enough, Nokia is becoming the face of mapping in WP8, and Nokia Maps will feature offline support, turn-by-turn directions, and feature NAVTEQ data.
It looks like Microsoft is trying to edge-in on RIM’s turf, offering new enterprise support in WP8 including options for secure storage and remote device management.
Finally, one of the most noticeable changes will be a fully reworked start screen, filling the display with new, multi-sized tiles. The absence of wasted space and the re-sizable tiles will let users populate their screens with even more information that was possible in WP7. For full customization, you’ll also find new tile color options.
Microsoft may just be scratching the surface here, but it’s definitely enough to whet our appetites for even more of what’s coming to Windows Phone 8.