Microsoft has finally unveiled the Windows Phone 8 platform, codenamed “Apollo” on Wednesday 20th June 2012. WP8 is without question the right direction & Microsoft is also wise to withhold most information on user features in case Google copy from them next week.
Below is the Full summit if you’re interested. For most enthusiasts, the first 35 minutes are the most interesting, the rest are mostly for (ex)programmers like me.
In many forums around the world, users are up-in-arms about not being able to upgrade to WP8. These complainers are mainly recent buyers of the Nokia Lumia 900 & HTC Titan II. So are these complainers right to feel angry? Let’s look at the situation objectively.
Windows 8 Summit is meant for Developers, IT managers & CTO
What many of these people don’t realise is that, the WP8 Summit is meant for developers. It was never meant to announce any new consumer features. Joe clarified this when he started his presentation & many people who watched it didn’t seem to catch that.
Anyway, WP8 finally brings feature parity against iOS 6 & Android 4.0, while enhancing on the strength of the Metro design language. The fact that WP8 promises so much might be the reason recent buyers of WP7.5 phones were unhappy that they will not be able to upgrade to WP8 in roughly 6 months time, less than 1 year into their contract.
But is Microsoft really short-changing current supporters of WP7? Let’s find out.
For Android, it’s been frustrating for buyers of low to mid-end devices because more often that not, these devices are never prioritized for upgrades, if at all. Only Google Nexus-branded devices are consistently getting updates but these updates are almost always very late & buggy at first. (Reminds me of Windows Mobile 6)
For iOS, Apple makes it sound so fantastic that even iPhone 3GS can upgrade to iOS 6. What they fail to mention is, most of new features of iOS 6 are not available on the 3GS & the GUI (on iOS 5.1) is so laggy, only a grandma wouldn’t mind using it. Apple likes to emphasize their user experience, but if that’s the case, they should not allow iOS 5 on the iPhone 3GS!
Why is it like this? Long time PC users will know that as software get more capability, their CPU & memory usage increase. On the PC, you can always install more RAM and/or a faster HDD/SSD. On the phone, this isn’t possible, even if the phone supports microSD.
So with every new release of software, the hardware requirement goes up. Just look at Android & iOS devices. The only exception recently is Windows 8.
New platform features in WP8
Below is a list of new features in WP8 from a developer point-of-view. Note that Microsoft has NOT talk about new user features except for the new Start Screen & Skype Integration.
- Windows NT kernel + Full core support similar to Windows RT
- Multi-CPU (& likely multi-GPU) support (Both physical & logical cores ala Hyper-threading, CrossFire & SLI)
- Same development environment for WP7.5, WP8, Win RT & Win 8
- 2 new HD resolutions
- Removable microSD support
- IE 10
- C/C++ support + Middleware support
- DirectX 11
- MS Wallet
- Navteq integration/replacement of Bing Maps (With offline maps)
- Nokia Navigation integration into Maps (Full SatNav replacement, bye bye Garmin)
- Full Enterprise security, management, in-house app deployment, & compliance
- Sizeable Tiles!!!
Now let’s match these new features & see which one requires hardware that current WP7 phones don’t have.
- Windows NT kernel + Core Stacks likely require 300-400MB of RAM to boot up. With current devices, maximum is 512MB of RAM, meaning after Win NT loads, you can’t run many other apps
- Multi-CPU – DirectX, IE 10, Enterprise security (encryption) all require Multi-CPU to run well
- New resolution of phone screen – Higher PPI on the phone allows more content to be displayed clearly especially for 4″ screens & above
- Removable microSD – Expandable storage allow users to upgrade their storage according to needs. Flash memory is not cheap.
- NFC – required for MS Wallet & Tap+Share
Without good DirectX support, gaming Middleware wouldn’t work very well. Without Multi-core, IE 10 will lose the browser war. WP7.5 is already very optimised & run faster than Android & iOS 5 on single-core devices. Going forward, Microsoft’s customers like me, are not going to be satisfied if WP8 devices are not faster than Android 4.0 & iOS5 devices!
So what are we left with?
- Same development environment
- C/C++ support
- Navteq powered maps + navigation
- Sizeable Tiles
Hey! Wait a minute, this sounds just like Windows Phone 7.8!
When we look at Microsoft’s position in the mobile arena, the length of time they spent doing WP8 (more than 1 year) & the innovations coming out of the new Microsoft, it’s almost inconceivable that they’d try to alienate existing customers, both end-users & OEMs by short-changing us. Losing end-users also gives OEMs less incentive to make smartphones running WP8. All bad bad situations for Microsoft’s already weak position.
Conclusion… Not short-changed!
In conclusion, with some concrete evidences & some extrapolations, I think we’re not short-changed at all & Microsoft hasn’t even announced their consumer features yet. (Although I will get upset if WP7.8 is just the Start Screen upgrade.)
It just doesn’t make sense to offer WP8 to existing users because our hardware simply cannot support the huge amount of stuff in WP8, & Microsoft is not going to sugarcoat it like Apple does. Unfortunately for Microsoft, users of Microsoft products typically identify the hardware more strongly than the software. This is a direct consequence of detaching the software from hardware in order to give consumer more choices.
Apple fans, when they find out Siri doesn’t work on iPhone 4, they go out & buy iPhone 4S almost immediately. Microsoft simply don’t have that kind of brand loyalty especially after their Anti-trust legal battles almost 10 years ago.
So if you own a Lumia 900 or Titan II, don’t sell yet! Wait a few weeks for Microsoft to announce what’s in WP7.8 & WP8 before making a decision whether Microsoft deserve your business!