Microsoft Announces Shift to Windows 8 for Windows Phone

Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will have a common Windows kernel, enabling developers and hardware manufacturers to easily support multiple devices with shared code and device drivers, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft expects the first Windows Phones with the Windows 8 operating system to become available later this year, the company announced today at its Windows Phone Summit for developers in San Francisco.

The next generation phones will offer a revamped Start screen, better multitasking, digital wallet and NFC wireless functionality (tap to pay), updated speech functionality, enterprise device management and security features. Windows Phone 8 will also introduce a development model based on C++/C and DirectX to facilitate code sharing with Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system. Windows 8 is expected sometime this fall on Microsoft Surface tablets, announced on Monday, and Windows-based PCs.

Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will have a common Windows kernel, enabling developers and hardware manufacturers to easily support multiple devices with shared code and device drivers, according to Microsoft. The platforms will share a common file system, networking features, security, media and Web browser. The common core, which had been rumored for months, alters the app model for Windows Phone 8, by introducing native C++ and C development with DirectX (in place of XNA), XAML in C# and Visual Basic (formerly Silverlight for Windows Phone based on Silverlight 4), and HTML/JavaScript for mobile Web apps. (You can install Visual Studio 2010 side by side with Visual Studio 2012 to access XNA Game Studio 4.0.)

The Windows 8 SDK supports the same languages and technologies, including a shared native API (C++/C Compaq edition), DirectX components and graphics support, which should enable developers to write games and other applications that run on both operating systems with only small code changes, according to Microsoft. The company announced upcoming technology suites (gaming middleware) for Windows Phone 8 from Havok Vision Engine—Havok's Physics tooling was used in Halo--Autodesk Scaleform (Flash), Audiokinetic Wwise (audio and sound authoring) and Firelight Technologies' FMOD (interactive audio).

Dev Tools Coming This Summer
The Windows Phone Developer Tools (including the free Visual Studio 2012 Express for Windows Phone and a Windows Phone 8 emulator) , are expected later this summer. SQLite will be ported to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 so that developers can download the code and use it in both platforms, according to Microsoft.

With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is updating the Start screen to offer more user customization of live tiles in terms of size, color, placement and content. Windows Phone 8 also supports more HTML5features in areas such as touch (enabled by canvas) and faster JavaScript performance.

Windows Phone 8 is described as a major release that marks a generation shift. It runs on multicore technology (starting with the Qualcomm dual-core processor), adds two screen resolutions (1280x768 and 1280x720), and offers a removable microSD card for storage and content sharing among Windows 8 devices (PCs, tablets and phones).

Microsoft announced today that OEM partners Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and HTC are building Windows Phone 8 devices. Nokia has introduced the critically acclaimed Lumia series of Windows Phone devices, but the company has struggled in recent months, and downgraded the outlook in 2012 for its Services and Devices division.

The next generation hardware also supports NFC wireless technology, enabling a new Wallet hub and Wallet UI that developers can integrate with third party apps. Developers can use it to support in-app purchases, which offer another avenue for monetization. The secure SIM is supported by the carrier so that it moves with the user, according to Microsoft Senior Vice President Joe Belfiore, who heads the Windows Phone program, instead of placed directly in the device like Google Wallet. Microsoft also expects to support ISIS (the AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile digital wallet and payment system) sometime next year.

Windows Phone 8 integrates Nokia Mapping technology with NAVTEQ data, enabling support for turn-by-turn directions in many countries and use of mapping data offline. It also has Internet Explorer 10 built-in (the same browser found in Windows 8) with Smart Screen Filter technology for phishing and malware protection.

At the Windows Phone Summit, Microsoft announced several mobile app developers that have agreed to port their mobile apps to the Windows Phone 8 platform, including Chase, whose banking app was used to demonstrate digital Wallet credit and debit card features, PayPal, and Zynga's Words with Friends and Draw Something applications.

Recompiling in the Cloud
The Windows Phone Marketplace has reached the 100,000 app milestone, Terry Myerson, Microsoft corporate vice president, announced during today's keynote. The Marketplace is now available in 180 countries and 50 languages.

While Windows Phone 7.5 apps will run on Windows Phone 8, according to Microsoft, current device users will not be able to upgrade to the Windows Phone 8 operating system.

Microsoft said it's recompiling all Windows Phone 7.5 apps "in the cloud to machine code" to run on Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7.5 developers will not be required to update or modify their apps in any way, according to the company. Microsoft has pledged to continue to support Windows Phone 7.5 apps. Windows Phone devices will be supported for at least 18 months after purchase, Myerson said.

To that end, Microsoft announced a Windows Phone 7.8 upgrade today for Windows Phone 7.5 users that will include the new Start screen and ship sometime after Windows Phone 8. Nokia Senior Vice President Kevin Shields also joined Microsoft on stage to talk about several, upcoming software and service updates for the current generation of Nokia Lumia devices. The demo included Camera Extras (panoramic and face imaging technology) based in part on the company's recent Scalado acquisition.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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