The folks up in Redmond have been really busy the past few days. They’ve previewed a brand new tablet, Windows 8, and they’ve just previewed Windows Phone 8 at their developer summit in San Francisco. The new Phone OS boasts some great features, as well as a few that are’t so great.
Apple’s pretty good at supporting old hardware. In fact, the iPhone 3GS is going on its third year of software updates, and is even getting updated to iOS 6. Microsoft, on the other hand, will not be porting the full Windows Phone 8 to legacy hardware (even your shiny new Nokia Lumia 900).
Microsoft said that the phones just can’t run Windows Phone 8 the way they want consumers to experience it. Even if you buy a Windows Phone that comes pre-installed with Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will only guarantee software updates for 18 months.
You read that right, only 18 months! Not even the full length of a standard cell phone contract. Compared to the iPhone 3GS, WP8 devices are going to die early.
Like iOS 5, all updates will be pushed over the air.
Microsoft also unveiled their NFC-ready software that integrates with finance apps and allows you to make purchases with your phone, exactly the same as Google Wallet and Apple’s rumored service. They also unveiled a Passbook-like feature that stores coupons, cards, and other things that might be in your wallet. It’s basically Passbook with a Metro UI.
You can also use your “Wallet” for in-app purchases, another new addition to WP8.
Microsoft also announced that thanks to the Windows 8 Common Core (more on that below), WP8 will be able to multitask apps in a similar fashion to iOS. VoIP apps like Skype will be able to run in the background, as well as GPS apps.
This has been in iOS since iOS 4, and it’s nice to WP8 to get some comparable features. Those were the big ones that Microsoft talked about, but they also added things that are similar to Fast App Switching.
No, WP8 does not have Siri. But, it does have something Siri doesn’t. A developer API. Developers for Microsoft’s platform can add custom commands to their apps. One big difference is that there is no unified way to access those features.
You can only access the voice commands within a specific app, so commands aren’t system-wide. Kind of a let down, but still a little more than what Siri offers.
Microsoft also mentioned that Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share the same base components (sound similar to any OS combinations you currently know of?), like the Windows Kernel, hard ware drivers (just like a real PC!), and UI elements. If you’re a developer, it means that you’ll be able to port apps to WP8 from Windows 8 and vice versa.
Windows Phone 8 is a very nice upgrade to Microsoft’s phone platform. There’s a lot of other neat features, but these are the most interesting. There’s going to be devices from Samsung, Nokia, HTC, and Huawei, coming out later this year.