A leaked video of Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Windows Phone Program Management, has revealed a few significant details about Windows Phone 8, often referred to under the codename “Apollo.” The video was created for the Redmond software giant’s partners at Nokia, but it seems to have fallen into the hands of Pocketnow. This allowed Paul Thurrott, who is already privy to much of this information, to confirm many of the details. Microsoft’s official response is the standard “no comment,” but Belfiore did allude to the leak with a humorous tweet this evening: “Hey.. just got out of another day of long, grinding meetings. Did I miss anything good?” That’s probably the understatement of the week.
The Windows Phone 8 kernel will indeed be a modified version of the one found in Windows 8. The merging of the Windows and Windows Phone operating systems will allow Microsoft to leverage the integration between the two platforms to a much greater degree. Windows 8′s networking, security model, and video and graphics capabilities will be all be coming to mobile devices, delivering on Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s promise that the software giant has “broad Windows initiatives driving Windows down to the phone.”
In fact, many of the new features found in Windows 8 will be making their way to Windows Phone in the Apollo update. All existing apps will continue to run on Windows Phone 8, but new apps will be able to communicate with each other via a feature very much like contracts in Windows 8. The Data Smart feature will also be coming to Windows Phone, allowing users to customize how much data they consume while on a cellular network. Sensor fusion will merge information from various sensors to create a more accurate picture of what’s going on, and business features like BitLocker, System Center, Secure Boot, and Exchange ActiveSync are certain to appeal to corporate IT departments.
Of course, that’s not all. Windows Phone 8 is expected to have a brand-new sync experience, but exactly how Microsoft intends to implement this is unknown. There’s a good chance it could be entirely–or, at least, mostly–tied into the cloud. One example Belfiore gives is the ability to pull up your entire music collection without any setup or sync required. One has to wonder if this means we will soon be able to back up our media collections to SkyDrive, a la Amazon’s Cloud Player. At the very least, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the pinning feature for streaming media (current found in the Zune app on Xbox) make its way to Windows Phone for a more user-friendly streaming experience. And, while Belfiore doesn’t specifically mention this feature, it sounds like users might finally be able to stream Zune Marketplace videos to their device.
Other software-related features include Internet Explorer 10 Mobile (complete with a proxy server for faster web browsing), personalized Local Scout recommendations, location data for nearby Wi-Fi hotspots through Bing, native code support, and the ability for businesses to privately distribute apps. The long-awaited Skype app is expected to be released before Windows Phone 8, but it will take advantage of Apollo’s new features to allow users to make and receive calls as if it were built into the operating system itself.
Software is a major part of any update, but the hardware is just as–if not more–important. Windows Phone 8 will support four screen resolutions, as opposed to the current single resolution of 480 x 800. The OS will also be able to take advantage of multi-core processors, near-frequency communication (NFC) chips for a “Wallet experience,” and much more. The camera is also becoming more modular, making way for “lens apps.” Our personal favorite hardware addition, however, is support for removable storage via microSD cards. A select few Windows Phones support permanent microSD memory upgrades, but the vast majority of devices don’t provide for it at all due to inconsistencies in microSD card quality. Thankfully, Microsoft seems to have found a work-around for this issue. Once microSD cards are supported across the board, we will finally be able to stop complaining about the low amount of memory on most devices.
Microsoft has obviously put a significant amount of time and energy into improving Windows Phone. Many common complaints have been solved with the above changes, and we’re sure Microsoft still has quite a bit more up its sleeve. This truly is “Windows Reimagined,” a point the software giant will reportedly push in its advertising.
Windows Phone 8 “Apollo” is expected to be released around the same timeframe as Windows 8. Microsoft might begin discussing the update at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of the month, but ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley believes it will mostly be behind closed doors so as not to harm current device sales. Whether or not Windows Phone 8 will even run on existing devices is unknown, but many of the new features–like NFC–will probably require new hardware anyway.
For a run-down of all of the known features in Windows Phone 8–be it new, confirmed, rumored, or debunked–check out our Windows Phone 8 feature list.