Windows Phone 8 Could Entice Developers

The next generation of Microsoft's smartphone could make Windows Phone apps interoperable with Windows 8 tablet apps and Windows 8 PC apps

The next version of Windows Phone could entice developers to take a long, hard look at Microsoft's still-fledgling mobile platform.

Such a move could help Redmond become more competitive against the smartphone Big Dogs at Apple and Google.

This is assuming correct information from an online news site that the Windows Phone 8, or "Apollo," release of Microsoft's smartphone OS will integrate the phone with the core Windows 8 OS and restore enterprise-focused features to Microsoft's mobility platform.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined comment on reporting Thursday by about details in an allegedly leaked video that Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Windows Phone Program Management, reportedly created for Microsoft's phone partners at Nokia. However, another prominent news outlet vouched for the report's authenticity and SuperSite for Windows' Paul Thurrott used the occasion of the leak to release similar information that he implied he had been sitting on from other sources.

Judging by the information in the report, Microsoft is making architectural changes with Windows Phone 8 to leverage the biggest potential market share advantage in its considerable arsenal.

Currently, Microsoft badly trails Apple and Google in smartphone market share, making its efforts to persuade app developers to dedicate their limited resources to the Windows Phone OS a tough sell. However, if Microsoft could make Windows Phone apps interoperable with Windows 8 tablet apps and Windows 8 PC apps, the addressable market for Windows-focused mobile apps could become large enough to make the opportunity irresistible for developers.

According to the reports, Microsoft plans to take the integration of the desktop/tablet and phone OS much deeper than just the "Metro"-style tile user interface, potentially allowing intensive cross-platform development.

The phone and regular OS will share several key components, with heavy overlap in the kernel, the networking stack, security and multimedia, reported Belfiore as saying in the video. The steps will allow developers to "reuse -- by far -- most of their code," Belfiore reportedly said.

The Belfiore video also revealed that Microsoft expected 100,000 apps to be in Microsoft's marketplace when Windows Phone 8 launches. With a rumored release date of Q4, that seems reasonable given that the Windows Phone Marketplace recently passed 50,000 apps. Even a 100,000 app count would leave Microsoft well behind Apple's 500,000-plus apps and Google's 400,000-plus apps, but Belfiore apparently promised Windows Phone 8 will help address that gap. The inclusion of native code support in the new version should ease porting of iOS and Android apps, according to Meanwhile, Microsoft is also vowing backward compatibility for Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 apps in Windows Phone 8.

When Microsoft threw out the Windows Mobile platform in favor of a clean break with Windows Phone 7, the company abandoned many of the enterprise-friendly features that had helped that earlier Microsoft smartphone OS to a respectable market share.

After establishing Windows Phone as a consumer-first interface consistent with consumerization of IT trends, Microsoft now appears ready to try to once again build in those business-friendly features on the back end. According to the reports, new enterprise-focused features will include native BitLocker encryption, Secure Boot capabilities, some sort of return to ActiveSync (whether next to or in place of Zune seems unclear), Exchange ActiveSync policies, System Center configuration settings and the ability for businesses to distribute internal business apps behind the firewall.

There's also a slew of end-user features on tap, including support for multi-core processors, four different screen resolution options, removable microSD card storage, NFC radios, tap-to-share capabilities, the ability to track data usage, revamped Skype and Xbox clients and automatic preference for Wi-Fi connections.

If all of the details leaked Thursday are correct, and Redmond can execute on the plans, Microsoft will be taking a long stride back toward the center of the IT world with the Windows Phone 8-Windows 8 combination.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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