Windows Phone 8: What we know, and what we don't


Today at the Windows Phone developer summit, Microsoft showed off Windows Phone 8 for the first time to the world, and despite the leaks earlier this year, many features were kept under wraps until today. 

Windows Phone 8 is a big leap forward for the platform, and is another big bet by Microsoft. It leaves current users in the dark, but paints a bright picture for the future with a Windows NT base. While a lot was revealed at todays event, we still don't know a lot about the new platform. So, to help, we've compiled a list of things we know, and don't know about Windows Phone 8.

What we know:

  • Multi-core: Windows Phone 8 finally brings multi-core support. The company still notes that it runs "buttery smooth" on a single core, but they point out that the Windows Core allows them to support them, so why not have them.
  • High resolution screens: We've been waiting for this since forever, and now Microsoft supports two new, higher resolution displays; 1280x768 and 1280x720.
  • MicroSD card: Windows Phone 8 supports MicroSD cards (and appears to be hot swappable). That should appease the Android folks.
  • NFC: It was kind of obvious this was coming, but NFC now allows you to share things between devices running Windows Phone 8.
  • IE10: The same version of Internet Explorer on Windows 8 is now on Windows Phone 8.
  • Wallet: Just like Apple's "Passbook," Microsoft will be keeping track of credit cards, coupons and boarding passes for you too.
  • Better maps/directions: Nokia now runs Microsoft's mapping story on the phone, and it's stronger than ever now with more detailed maps and offline map sync.
  • Enterprise IT controls: Finally, Windows Phone is fit for the enterprise. Microsoft has added device encryption, UEFI(!), Remote Management and company hub to Windows Phone 8.
  • UEFI boot: Believe it or not, your phone is now almost identical to your computer, and uses the new, secure boot process to ensure the phone isn't tampered with. 
  • OTA Updates: Over the air updates are now on Windows Phone. 
  • Guaranteed updates: Microsoft now guarantees updates for 18 months from device launch.
  • No love for current devices: Not a single current device will get Windows Phone 8, but, Microsoft will port the new start screen to Windows Phone 7.8, meaning some owners should be happy enough.
  • Carriers still have to approve updates: Sorry guys, Microsoft still hasn't cracked this one yet.
  • No development codename: Believe it or not, Microsoft isn't using a stupid codename like "Mango" for this one, it's just Windows Phone 8.
  • Native code: Developers rejoice! Windows Phone now supports native code.
  • OEM's: We know Nokia, HTC, Huawei and Samsung are making devices, but what happened to everyone else? Where did the likes of Dell and Asus go?
  • Skype and VoIP: Skype is coming in a big way, and so is VoIP support. Details are sketchy right now, but it seems to be baked in to the same level as Messenger and Facebook Chat are right now in WP7. Phone calls on Skype are as seamless as a normal incoming call.
  • US carriers: At launch; AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless

What we don't know:

  • Handsets: We know literally nothing about handset availability, pricing or release dates other than "Fall 2012." This seems to be Microsoft's line, at the moment.
  • High density displays: Will high density displays be supported on Windows Phone 8, or is it essentially up to the vendors to build them in? It's not clear yet, let's hope they plan on bringing them, though.
  • App menu: It looks to us like the application menu is gone, from the screenshots. Microsoft may require all applications to be pinned to the start screen from now on. The video shows the user grabbing a tile and resizing it, and the "unpin" button appears to be gone. Actually, it's there! So, where is the app menu?
  • SDK: No word on street date for the Windows Phone 8 SDK yet, and developers can't get excited until then. 
  • Notification Center: Still no word on what many users are crying for, a unified notification center. It looks like Microsoft plans to negate that by forcing users to pin everything to the start menu. The video shows the user grabbing a tile and resizing it, and the "unpin" button appears to be gone.
  • World-wide support: No word on whether or not countries like Australia will be supported like they are with Windows Phone 7, but hopefully it will be the same as the current release.
  • Voice/Siri competitor: We know Microsoft has been working on something big, but we still haven't heard about it. It's about time that they show it off to the world.
  • Native screenshot support: No word on this, and Microsoft said "no comment" when we asked.
  • Old devices: We know old devices will only get Windows Phone 7.8, but what features will that actually contain other than the start screen? Microsoft is super quiet on this one.

Our guesses:

  • Price: OEM's will have to price according to the market, so we think that devices will retail for roughly the same about the Lumia range sells for now.
  • Release: "Fall" is pretty vague, but expect the device availability to start pouring out shortly after Windows 8 RTM's. The devices and launch is likely to closely coincide with Windows 8, and we have a feeling it'll be on the same day.
  • Voice/Siri: This will be a big part of Windows Phone 8, but likely won't be shown off until sometime in late July/August when Microsoft announces consumer features. The video mentioned above should give a good idea of where Microsoft wants to go.
  • Notification center: It looks like Microsoft is steering away from this, trying to force users to pin everything to the start screen. Don't be surprised if there's nothing in Windows Phone 8.
  • OEM's: The announced OEM's are the launch partners. Between now and then, our guess is no others will be announced. More are likely to be added later, though. Dell and Asus probably won't create any more handsets.
  • Developer buy-in: This is a difficult one to predict, but Microsoft is likely to have a hard time luring developers to a "square-one reset" of a platform like this. They will come, but perhaps slowly. There will likely be a lot of monetary incentives put out by Microsoft to lure them in.
  • Apps at launch: The video hints at a few partners, like Netflix, Twitter, Facebook, Plants VS Zombies etc, but who else will be there at launch? This won't be talked about for a while, but at a guess the big guys will be there, just like the launch of Windows Phone 7.
  • Universal Search: Nothing was announced on this, but our bets are on this being a big deal with Windows Phone 8, just like it's a core part of Windows 8. Search everything!

This list is being continually updated, so stay tuned as we find out more about Windows Phone 8 this week.

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