On Monday, Microsoft launched its latest and greatest mobile OS, Windows Phone 8, in multiple concurrent events across the globe. But as we noted on the day, there was no mention at all of Windows Phone 7.8, the update that Microsoft promised to those with older handsets that are not compatible with Windows Phone 8.
But there were murmurings that new entry-level devices will launch with WP7.8 – presumably including the new Alcatel OneTouch with WP and Nokia Lumia 510 – within six weeks, with 7.8 being rolled out as an over-the-air (OTA) update to existing handsets shortly afterwards.
But Microsoft Italy seems to have let the cat out of the bag, not only revealing the launch window for Windows Phone 7.8, but also some of the additional features that users can expect with it. Microsoft has previously only confirmed that the more flexible WP8-style Start Screen will be included in 7.8, but the Facebook page for Windows Phone Italy shared a few more details than that.
The post – since removed – stated that 7.8 will be available shortly after the launch of Windows Phone 8 devices (presumably referring to these devices actually going on sale, since most WP8 handsets were ‘launched’ many weeks ago at their own press events). This suggests that availability of the 7.8 update is indeed imminent, and likely to arrive in a matter of weeks, as previously reported.
In addition to the new Start Screen, further features are promised for 7.8 (some licence has had to be taken with interpreting the translated text provided by BetaNews). The Rooms feature announced for WP8 will apparently be present in some form on 7.8; calendar sharing is mentioned, but it’s unclear whether photo sharing and chat will also be provided as on WP8.
The expanded Xbox Music library will also be available via Zune (which will apparently live on in 7.8, rather than being replaced by Xbox Music), with full Xbox SmartGlass support.
Now that’s not necessarily an exhaustive list of the only features that 7.8 will bring, but it’s the first real info we’ve heard about it since Microsoft first announced the planned update all the way back in June. We’ll hopefully find out soon enough if it’s been worth the wait.