NEWS ANALYSIS: The look and feel of new Windows Phone 8 will be a lot like what came with Windows Phone 7.5. But what's inside will be much improved.
If youve used a smartphone running Windows Phone 7.5, then the latest version of the Microsoft mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8, wont be a huge surprise. The tiled interface will cover the entire screen, instead of about two-thirds of it.
There will be more live tiles so that you can see whats going on with some apps without having to actually run anything. The difference will grow even smaller since current Windows Phone 7.5 devices will apparently get the new start screen as well.
But phones with WP7.5 wont be getting Windows Phone 8. This is because beneath the surface WP8 is really a totally new operating system, not just an upgraded version of WP7.5. The good news is that apparently Microsoft will keep much of what was good about the earlier version. The other good news is that several phone vendors have signed on to build the new version of WP8, and Verizon Wireless has indicated that it will carry the new phones.
Nokia will apparently bring its current Lumia line to WP8, which is a good thing for Nokia since its in the process of deep-sixing its other smartphones to focus on the Lumia, and as a result, WP8 is necessary for its survival. Its also good news for users because the initial feature set seems to make WP8 easier to use and faster with the apps running on it more seamlessly integrated.
In addition, Microsoft is showing a Siri-like voice interface that the company says will allow any application to be voice-enabled. Demonstrations at the June 20 launch event show that, once enabled, the voice interface doesnt require a button press to take commands. The demonstration also seemed to show that you can use the voice feature to launch apps as well as to look stuff up. But will it have Siris attitude? Somehow I doubt it.
Probably more important for both users and developers is that most existing Windows Phone 7.5 apps will apparently run on Windows Phone 8. This means that WP8 customers will find an app store with more than 100,000 products available for download. One of the launch-day announcements was that this important milestone had been reached. Thats nowhere near as many apps as you can find on Apples app store, nor nearly as many as youll find on Google Play, but its still a lot. Users wont go hurting for apps to download.
Another important aspect of WP8 is that it apparently shares a lot of its core code with the desktop version of Windows 8 and presumably with the code for Windows 8 RT.
Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazine's Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.
He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.