Windows 8 Shared Core: Joe Belfiore, corporate Vice President, Windows Phone Program Management, announced that Windows Phone 8 will be launched later this year and will feature a ‘shared core’ with the upcoming Windows 8 operating system. This means that Windows Phone 8 will share common networking, security, media and web browser technology, and a common file system with Windows 8.
Windows Phone 8 will feature a new start screen with resizable metro-style live tiles which can be resized into three different sizes and a new set of theme colors.
Nokia Maps will also replace the Maps app in Windows Phone as the default Maps app in Windows Phone 8 which will offer offline maps and turn-by-turn directions in many countries around the world. Note that Bing Maps is already using Nokia’s mapping data to offer live traffic information and Nokia had then hinted that it will soon become “the engine powering Bing Maps on Windows Phone devices and applications”.
Besides this, Microsoft will allow native code development (C and C++ support) along with the existing XAML and HTML5 platform and support for DirectX for native game development. Windows Phone 8 will also feature In-app payments which allows developers to sell virtual and digital goods within their apps, deep VoIP integration to allow users pick up Internet calls using the same calling interface, improved multitasking which allows location-based apps to run in the background and a new speech platform.
Among the new enterprise features include a new Company Hub, which allows IT admins to create their own Windows phone hub to deliver company related apps, news headlines and security alerts to mobile phones, built-in device encryption to allow professionals encrypt the entire device, improved security with support for app sandboxing and United Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) secure boot protocol, and support for remote management.
NFC and Wallet: Windows Phone 8 also brings built-in NFC wireless sharing which allows users to share photos, office documents, and contact information by tapping their NFC-enabled phone with another NFC-capable mobile device. Microsoft also announced a new Wallet Hub which stores debit and credit card information, coupons, boarding passes, and other relevant information and enable users to pay directly from their mobile phones by tapping their phones at checkout counters. This wallet will be first launched with Orange in France and the company is currently in talks with US carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to launch this feature next year in the United States. That being said, there is currently no information if this wallet hub will be limited to select countries like Google Wallet and Apple’s recently launched Passbook app or whether it will be extended to other countries as well.
Windows Phone Marketplace Stats: Microsoft stated that Windows Phone Marketplace now has 100,000 apps, with 200 apps on average being added every day. The company claimed that it has reached this milestone faster than Google’s Android. Microsoft also announced new titles which are expected to hit the marketplace in few months. These include an Audible app for Audiobooks, Paypal app for wallet purposes and games like Asphalt 7: Heat and N.O.V.A. 3 Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance. Microsoft has expanded Windows Phone Marketplace to support app downloads in over 180 countries and Windows Phone 8 will support a total of 50 languages.
In addition, Nokia has tied up with Zynga to bring Zynga game titles like Words With Friends and Draw Something to Windows 8 Platform in a few months. Nokia will also be launching a new suite of Windows Phone apps like Digital Camera Extras which will offer the ability to mix and match portions of images captured in a burst to create a smart group shot, a call and data monitoring app Nokia Counter, contact sharing app Contact Share and a DLNA streaming app Nokia Play To, along with updated versions of Nokia Maps, Nokia Transport, Nokia Gig Finder and Nokia Drive which will now be available to other Windows Phone 8 device makers.
Future Software Updates: Microsoft stated that it has been working closely with several partners to deliver all future software updates over-the-air (OTA) and all devices will receive software updates for at least 18 months from the device launch. It also introduced a new enthusiast program under which registered enthusiasts will get early access to the software updates before pushing it for general users.
Windows Phone 7.8: In a move that could possibly lead to Windows phone fragmentation, Microsoft informed that existing Windows Phone smartphones will not get the Windows phone 8 update since it “is a generation shift in technology”. However, the company will be rolling out a new software update dubbed ‘Windows Phone 7.8’, which will bring in select features like the new start screen to the existing Windows phone smartphones.
Windows Phone 8 Devices: Microsoft noted that that first wave of Windows Phone 8 devices will arrive from Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and HTC and all the phones will be powered by Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon processors.