At today’s Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco, as you know, Microsoft gave us our first glimpse of what is to come in Windows Phone 8 mainly from a developer perspective. There were a few features announced that many could consider ground breaking, while there were a few others that can certainly be considered catching up to the competition.
First up, probably the most ground breaking part of Windows Phone 8 is its shared core with the full version of Windows 8. This could be huge for developers and the Windows Phone app story. Companies who want to build phones and tablets can use the same components in some areas and they’ll only have to write drivers for that specific hardware once since it will be compatible on both operating systems. Building apps for a wide variety of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 devices will be extremely easy. Making something that targets that wide a variety of form factors seems like a no brainer.
The next thing that I think is going to be pretty ground breaking in Windows Phone 8 is the updated speech UI. If you remember, I predicted this feature a while back in an article here on Pocketnow. Adding the ability for 3rd party developers to tap into Microsoft’s integrated Speech engine is a huge advantage (for people who use speech UI’s). This opens the doors to a wide variety of potential hands-free and eyes-free user interaction capabilities. Microsoft demonstrated the Audible app’s integrated speech UI that allows you to search your audio book library and then control the playback of audio books… All of that right from the normal single-button speech UI activation method. What’s more is that app-generated notifications can also announce their alerts using the speech UI. For example INRIX is able to notify the user that there’s a car accident on her usual route to work and asks if she’d like to take a different route. That’s some excellent integration, and a much more forward-thinking approach to a voice interface than Windows Phone’s competitors.
Full VOIP and Video Chat integration for any developer is another thing that I think should go into the “Ground breaking” category. With Windows Phone 8 it will be possible for any provider to create phone and video calling services that behave exactly like normal phone calls. They’ll pop-up full screen even when the phone is locked just like a real phone call.
Then there are a number of catch-up features that have already been done on other platforms, but Microsoft is trying to do a little better. You’ve got IE 10 which is supposed to be a little bit faster than all the other mobile browsers out there and it has full code parity with the desktop version of IE 10 that you’ll see on Windows 8 PCs. Malware protection is built into the browser now as well so that people will be less likely to get tricked into giving up their passwords.
Windows Phone 8’s support for multiple cores and multiple screen resolutions is another thing that sounds like it’s been done before, and this is true. However, it sounds like Windows Phone 8’s multi-core support is baked into the operating system in a similar way as to how Windows 8 supports multiple cores and therefore could be much more scalable and translate well to 3rd party apps without much developer intervention.
Windows Phone 8’s Wallet app sounds a lot like what Google has had for a while and Apple has recently announced. One difference is that the Wallet seems very well integrated with 3rd party apps that allow for in-app purchasing… and Windows Phone’s Wallet supports deals which you might find in Local Scout or through other apps. “Deals” are basically digital ads or coupons that you can redeem at certain stores when you go to buy something. It’s similar to the deals that you can find on Foursquare when you check in to certain locations.
Adding features for Enterprises is another area where Windows Phone 8 is really catching up to things that the old Windows Mobile could do. Things like device management, business controlled app installations and custom apps for specific business are all things that Enterprises relied on with the old Windows Mobile and are now coming back to Windows Phone 8. A few things that are even better for businesses that you won’t find on other mobile platforms are secure boot and bitlocker encryption plus the very cool new “Company Hub” feature. The “Company Hub” is a fully customizable area for company related information as well as suggested company related applications that you can install on your device. This style of distributing apps doesn’t use the Windows Phone Marketplace at all. That way companies can develop custom apps for specific scenarios and have them available only to their own authorized Windows Phone devices.
Of course these are only a few of the features in Windows Phone 8 that Microsoft announced. We can expect plenty of other consumer-facing features in Windows Phone 8 as well. How does it sound so far? Is Microsoft still catching up or are they breaking new ground or a little bit of both?