Windows Phone 8 Summit: Lost in the Shuffle

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Mar 1, 2011
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With little surprise, the WP8 Summit discussion has been dominated by Microsoft?s decision to give current customers an upgrade to 7.8 and not the full Windows Phone 8 experience. And while this thread will probably devolve into the same debate, I would like to remind everyone that the WP8 Summit was not about consumers. Joe Belfiore announced at the beginning of his presentation that the summit was for hardware partners and developers. We can only assume that there are many more consumer based announcements on the horizon.

Microsoft introduced the new home screen for 7.8 users but were mum on any additional changes. Presumably because the summit wasn?t for consumers. Many people seem to believe this means that current users will only get a new start screen. But keep in mind that Terry Myerson, head of Windows Phone, said, and I quote, ?And this is not all that Windows Phone 7.5 customers will get.? (video) I believe that means more consumer focused features will be announced for 7.8 and everything we hear until this is pure speculation.

Because of the outrage over 7.8, several great features that will enhance Windows Phone have gone unnoticed. A couple that caught my eye during Joe Belfiore?s presentation was that having a shared core between Win8 and WP8 makes it easier for hardware OEMs to create a wide range of devices using the same drivers. That means that an OEM can create one driver for the PC and use it on a Win8 tablet or phone. This potentially allows for more PC manufactures to create Windows Phones based on the hardware they create for other form factors. Companies like HP or Dell should have an easier time breaking into the phone market as they should be able to significantly reduce the cost associated with releasing multiple devices? not that I?m looking forward to another HP melt down in the mobile space, lol. :D

Joe also announced that WP8 will ship with dual core support ?and more.? He didn?t go into detail about what that specifically entails but I think it?s safe to assume that WP8 will take full advantage of the hardware inside, unlike Android which shipped with poor support for the hardware inside of it. But, like Android, there?s going to be MicroSD support! While that doesn?t do much for me, it should make millions of future users very happy. Joe also mentioned that SD cards could be used to transfer information between phones.

Something else I didn?t catch the first time around was that Joe was demoing the new start screen using existing 7.5 applications. He later went on the describe that current 7.5 apps will continue to look good on HD screens without any modifications required from the developer. I can only assume that will benefit 7.8 users since developers will have an easier time porting from 7.8 to 8.

Also, I recommend watching the Havok demo if you haven?t already. I believe game development is where you?ll see the biggest discrepancy between 7.8 and 8 users, though probably not at first. It?s going to take a while for Win8/WP8 to reach a significant portion of the market before game devs decide to focus only on WP8 game development. Current developers definitely won?t need dual core and DirectX 11 for their 1MB app, but game developers will (eventually).

While I?m disappointed that my 900 won?t be able to handle the graphics like those seen in the demo, I also realize that Windows Phone doesn?t exist in the bubble. The iPhone 5 is coming this fall and so is the monthly refresh of Android devices. Microsoft must release equivalent hardware to compete with the super devices coming later this year. The shared core, hardware acceleration, native code, DirectX 11, and advanced CPU/GPU means that Microsoft is ready to compete at both a hardware and GUI level.

There was also a splattering of enterprise tools that should help Windows Phone become a legitimate force. A shared core means that IT can use their existing tools to deploy devices with secure boot, bitlocker encryption, and business controlled app distribution. All things that should really bit a dent in RIM?s stranglehold on the business sector.

Overall I?m really looking forward to the future of Windows Phone and if you haven?t seen the summit yet then you should definitely check it out.
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