Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8This is the second press conference that Microsoft has held this week. Last time Redmond revealed the Surface tablet running Windows 8; today the company is showcasing the new Windows Phone, Windows Phone 8.
There are many new additions, so let's just delve in one at a time. The most obvious change has to be the new start screen. If you liked the screen from Windows Phone 7, well, you probably will like this one too. It manages to cram in even more information accessible at a glance thanks to the addition of small tiles (along with medium and large ones) and a design that doesn't leave an awkward black lip at the edge of the screen.
The design looks much more cluttered to me, but also much more usable. Microsoft is also allowing you to change the color theme of your home screen, providing a little bit of customization to a phone sorely missing it.
Microsoft has also built in the hooks to support VOIP apps, which means that Skype (and others) can run as if they were directly integrated with the OS. Big news for Skype users, but most others won't notice.
Maps are now provided by Nokia, which is a mixed blessing. Nokia's mapping solution is adequate, but not up to par with Google's or even Apple's.
There is now support for NFC in the OS, and Microsoft is launching a Wallet hub that brings together many different payment options. Basically you will be able to pay with NFC where it is supported and use Apple's solution when you can't.
The operating system has also been made significantly more flexible. Devices now support three different screen resolutions--WVGA, WXGA and 720P, keeping the devices down to two aspect ratios that developers need to design for--as well as being able to run on up to 64 cores and finally officially supporting SD cards. Microsoft is focusing on dual-core devices for now, but we should see some quad-core Windows Phone 8 devices arrive shortly.
But the most exciting thing is that Windows Phone 8 runs the same core as Window 8. Why is that exciting? A developer can program an app for one and have it run on the other. A program developed for Windows 8 can run on Windows Phone 8 with no changes, though the developer would probably have to redo the user interface.
This is huge. It unifies the most popular platform in the world with a phone. Rather than struggling with apps specifically designed for phones and not having access to the full range of app choices, you can just run a desktop app on your phone, if the developer allows it and the app doesn't require too much processing power.
Microsoft claims that they have even more in the pipe than what they showed today, but they want to keep it back until the launch is closer. If they have a few more tricks up their sleeves I could imagine that Windows Phone 8 will finally take off.