This week was filled with Microsoft announcements. First, the mystery event to announce Microsoft Surface, the Windows 8 tablet. Then; at the Windows Phone Summit, we saw the first presentation to the public of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 8. Along with the excitement of this new version, it was announced that all current Windows Phone 7.x devices would not be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8. While this is not uncommon in the smartphone industry (Apple and Google do this with their iOS and Android devices), Microsoft was faced with some questioning on the consumer side. This is why the company announced a stopgap measure for those who have Windows Phone 7.x currently and want to get a taste for Windows Phone 8. The new update for Windows Phone 7.x will be Windows Phone 7.8.
Windows Phone 8 is a major generational change, not an incremental upgrade, this is why it is not possible to release the new OS on old smart phones. The most important architectural difference is that the OS core will be shared with the Windows 8 core. This means that Windows Phone 8 will be designed from the ground up to run essentially the same applications as its bigger brother Windows 8. Windows Phone 7 is based on a previous generation OS core. This is great news moving forward but unfortunately it hurts users of the Windows Phone 7.x platform.
Not all is bad hews, however; as Microsoft has committed to recompile and make sure that all of its apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace are available and compatible with the new Windows Phone 8 OS. Which means that more than 100,000 apps will be ready for the next version when it is released around the October time-frame.
Windows Phone 7.8 will sport three features that will also be available in Windows Phone 8 when it is released:
Windows 7.8 Delivery: The Windows Phone 7.8 update will be delivered over the air, directly from Microsoft. No longer will you have to wait in line until your carrier decides to bench Windows Phone for some other artificial process that delays goodies getting to you. Once you receive the notification on your Windows Phone that you have an update available, you will be able to connect to a WiFi network to receive the download/update and execute the update in place. There was no information available at the time of writing this article whether you could execute the download from your smart phone’s 3G/4G data connection and whether you would need to be connected to a power adapter in order to execute the update process. More information will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. This same method of updating Windows Phone will be also available moving forward in all future Windows Phone versions.
Start Screen Tiles: Starting with Windows Phone 7.8 and future versions, tiles will be re-sizeable to 3 possible sizes. The existing 2 sizes Square (medium) and double-wide (large) will continue to exist and will be joined by a small sized square which will be one quarter the size of current square sized tiles. Apps can now be written to support these 3 sizes for auto-refresh of tiles. The user itself will be the one who chooses the size of the tiles, being now able to assign larger size (or importance) to some apps over the others. The video attached [HERE – Start Screen] shows what you can do and how you can make your Windows Phone yours.
Start Screen Look & Feel: While keeping the look and feel of Metro, and allowing you to show more tiles of relevant sizes; more of your screen will be usable for showing tiles. Windows Phone 7’s Start Screen has empty/unused space on the right side of the screen. The combination of large, medium and the new smaller tiles with the new/better use of screen real estate will help users take advantage of almost all the screen space for allocating tiles.