By Joe Belfiore
Three years ago I was lucky to join the Windows Phone team at a time when we were “resetting” our approach to mobile operating system software. We made big changes to our design, our approach to partners, and our platform. The result was Windows Phone 7.
Now it’s time to start telling you about the next exciting chapter of our story: Windows Phone 8. Officially announced this morning in San Francisco, it’s the most advanced mobile OS Microsoft has ever made and will arrive on new phones later this year.
Many of Windows Phone 8’s new capabilities come from a surprising source: Windows, the most successful and powerful operating system on the planet, and one used by more than a billion people. Yes, you read that right: Windows Phone 8 is based on the same core technologies that power Windows 8. As a result, Windows Phone 8 will unleash a new wave of features for consumers, developers, and businesses.
Today I’ll give you a high-level sneak peek at the Windows Phone 8 platform and tell you just some of what it’s going to make possible. I’ll also share some exciting news about apps and updates for current Windows Phone customers. This isn’t a full disclosure of everything in Windows Phone 8—look for a more complete tour of new features later.
If you’ve seen Windows 8, Microsoft’s groundbreaking new release for PCs and tablets, you’ve probably noticed it bears more than a passing resemblance to the look of Windows Phone. Here’s how the Windows 8 Start screen looks in the latest preview release.
With Windows Phone 8, the similarity is more than skin deep. We’ve based the next release of Windows Phone on the rock-solid technology core of Windows 8. It means Windows Phone and its bigger sibling will share common networking, security, media and web browser technology, and a common file system. That translates into better performance, more features, and new opportunities for app developers and hardware makers to innovate faster.
This new shared core—along with all the extra work we’ve done on top of it—opens up a new world of capabilities, which you don’t have to be a techie to appreciate. Here’s a taste:
We’re putting the finishing touches on Windows Phone 8 as I write this. It has a ton of great new consumer features that I can’t wait to tell you about in the months ahead. Today, however, I’m going to show off just one: the beautiful, flexible new Start screen.
As you can see, we’re making Windows Phone 8 even more personal, with a new palette of theme colors and three sizes of Live Tiles, all of which are under your control. We know Live Tiles are one of the things current owners really love about their Windows Phones, and we wanted to make them even more flexible and unique. This short video shows the new Start screen in action.
The new Start screen is so useful and emblematic of what Windows Phone is about that we want everybody to enjoy it. So we’ll be delivering it to existing phones as a software update sometime after Window Phone 8 is released. Let me repeat: If you currently own a Windows Phone 7.5 handset, Microsoft is planning to release an update with the new Windows Phone 8 Start screen. We’re calling it “Windows Phone 7.8.”
Some of you have been wondering, “Will we also get Windows Phone 8 as an update?” The answer, unfortunately, is no.
Windows Phone 8 is a generation shift in technology, which means that it will not run on existing hardware. BUT we care deeply about our existing customers and want to keep their phones fresh, so we’re providing the new Start screen in this new update.
Today we announced that the Windows Phone Marketplace officially hit 100,000 apps and games—a milestone we reached faster than Android, and a testament to the thousands of talented developers around the world who’ve supported us since launch. Together they deliver more than 200 new titles, on average, each day.
On behalf of everybody at Windows Phone, THANK YOU! We appreciate your effort and creativity and the value you bring to Windows Phone users.
To mark the milestone, today we’re announcing a new batch of marquee titles. The official Audible app for audiobooks arrives in Marketplace today. Official apps from Chase and PayPal are in the works. Gameloft has Windows Phone versions of Asphalt 7: Heat and N.O.V.A. 3 Near Orbit Vanguard Alliance on the way.
And Nokia is helping deliver the much-requested Zynga games Words with Friends and Draw Something to Windows Phone later this year. Check out Nokia Conversations today for more details about this and other new Windows Phone-related announcements today. (And don’t miss the fun new “100,000 Apps and Counting” mugs and other goodies in the official Windows Phone Gear Store!)
Since we’re talking about apps, I want to tell developers a little bit about what they can expect in Windows Phone 8. Some of the exciting changes on the way include:
This is just a taste. Later this summer, we’ll have much more for developers on the Windows Phone 8 Software Development Kit (SDK) and the new Visual Studio 11-based development tools. So stay tuned.
In Windows Phone 8, we’re also moving into the workplace in a big way, introducing a number of features and capabilities that companies and their IT departments demand. This is just one more benefit of sharing a common core with Windows 8. Some of the new business-friendly features include:
I get a lot of tweets asking, “When will my phone get Arabic? Farsi? Turkish?” They’re also the top feature requests on the Windows Phone Suggestion Box site.
I’m happy to tell you these languages are coming! In fact, Windows Phone 8 will support a total of 50 languages, or double the current geographic coverage. We’re also expanding Marketplace, our store for apps and games, to support app downloads in over 180 countries—nearly triple its current footprint.
Another area I know many of you care deeply about is Windows Phone software updates and how they’re delivered—something we’ve gotten a lot of feedback on over the last year. Today I’m excited to tell you that we’ve been working closely with our many partners to improve the update process for Windows Phone 8, and help get you our latest software more quickly and easily.
How? First, Windows Phone 8 updates will be delivered wirelessly over-the-air, so you don’t have to bother plugging your phone into your PC to update anymore. Second, we will support devices with updates for at least 18 months from device launch.
Finally, we’re working to create a program that gives registered enthusiasts early access to updates prior to broad availability—a little gift to our biggest fans and supporters. We think these three initiatives will help keep your phone fresher than ever before.
I know that’s a lot to digest—and look forward to. And I didn’t even mention actual phones yet!
We’re really excited about the strong line-up of hardware partners who are putting their support behind Windows Phone 8. The first wave of devices for Windows Phone 8 will come from Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and HTC, all built on next-generation chips from Qualcomm.