Yesterday Microsoft gave a sneak peak of Windows Phone 8. I think it’s important to note that at this stage they only gave a peak at what is coming. I helped live blog the whole event that clocked in at almost two hours, with a lot of talk (in broad terms) about what’s coming. What we did not hear was much in the way of details. Instead, this was little more than a beefed up platform overview.
What I Heard
Windows Phone 8 has a new underlying core, which is based on a standard Windows core – apps made for WP7 will work fine on WP8 devices. Moreover, we’ll see a better development story between WP8 & Win8. A new start screen, that is for both WP8 & WP7 devices. Wallet Hub, an NFC Hub to provide a flexible, secure way to manage payments.
Better support for VoIP – Giving VoIP apps ability to run in background, uses phone OS features so it will offer a similar experience to a normal carrier call.
Due to the leak of the feature set some time back, none of these annoucements comes as much of a surprise and, really, it’s just confirming what we already knew. The only real surprise was that of the Start screen changing, I had heard this wasn’t going to change and I’m jolly happy they are moving this concept forward. What do you think? Like it?
The Spaces In Between Reveal What We Still Don’t Know
We saw a quick demo of some “conversational” TellMe technology – that was a little too brief and looks like there is more that we have yet to find out. There were a few jabs at Siri on iOS so they must feel confident that TellMe is now ready for its big push. They are making speech available within apps, which is neat. Again, we are short on specifics on the speech improvements in WP8. What other tricks are we likely to see?
Hubs & Tiles
They didn’t get too specific here but we see a great transition in functionality in the tiles. The example I saw was making the Messaging Hub double size – it then changed to show a rolling display of all text messages coming in.
The Music & Video Hub in one shot when double size shows a dynamic text and image based tile that looks like the screen saver from the Zune desktop software. A big reminder that we saw nothing of Music and Video in WP8, that’s a big part of the OS feature set, and it wasn’t touched on at all.
So what more can we expect? What do the other tiles do when they are maximised and minimised? What we weren’t shown was a deep dive on all the rich functionality that this will provide from the existing built-in apps, and what will be available for developers when creating their own.
They spoke about live tiles but again I didn’t hear the whole story. Live tiles are great, but let’s face it, they have had their issues on WP 7.5 – some stop working or just sit on the screen showing the same out of date information for days on end. We didn’t hear of improvements to the robustness of this system, so I wonder if there is more to say on that.
The Key WP8 Hardware Partners
We heard that Samsung, Nokia, Huawai and HTC were all on board for WP8. But reading between the lines, what happened to LG, Dell, ZTE, Acer, and Asus? While the people mentioned are going to make some good hardware, it looks like WP8 is either for the select few by Microsoft’s choice or those missing OEMs aren’t happy to get on board for WP8? I would like to know what you think.
You wanted an upgrade to Windows Phone 8 from your current WP7 device…
While I was doing the live blog, I had to switch off Twitter. Paul Thurrott released the information right near the start that current-gen devices would not get invited to the WP8 party by way of an upgrade. Twitter went wild, my screen was filled with shock and anger that WP8 is not an upgrade path for current-gen phones. Why, when we have known this through LOUD rumours for months and months, do we see all this outrage now?
Apps will carry on being developed to target WP7 & WP8 and, over time, developers, as they get to grips with the new platform, will improve them to take advantage of the new features brought by the new OS such as the wallet & higher screen resolutions. Support for WP7.5 is not going to end, but in order to get access to some of those new features (that we still don’t really know much about) people will need to upgrade their hardware. A lot of first-gen users are going to reach the end of their contracts around WP8 (and Windows 8) release time so this should ease a lot of angst.
The device I recently bought (Nokia Lumia 800) was made for Windows Phone 7.5 – what would it be like running WP8? Sure, it might run, but it would most likely be slow and wouldn’t allow me to play the new games designed for WP8 era devices. It would also not allow me to take advantage of NFC; my phone doesn’t have the hardware, so what’s the point in such an upgrade?
I will say that, as an early adopter to the platform, when I jumped on board with WP7 I gained access to the NoDo update and the Mango update but those were almost totally software based updates, not a fundamental change in OS features dependent on new hardware such as dual core CPU’s & higher DPI screens. People that have just bought into the WP7.5 platform will get a neat little paint job when WP7.8 is rolled out to them, what other features of WP8 will they be hankering after that are software only?
There is more coming
Microsoft is actually getting better at holding their cards to their chests on these things; look at how they managed the Surface announcement. The Internet is still talking about it. I for one am happy with this update. It’s going to provide a solid base for future updates and the synergy between Windows & Windows Phone is now locked together – it’s going to get a lot more attention within MS rather than it being a platform separate from everything else. This is another piece in the jigsaw to see all these devices come together to form one cohesive ecosystem. A little bit of pain for existing users but it is all rather exciting, don’t you think?
- Robert Brand