The crazy mobile month of June continues today with Microsoft's Windows Phone Summit. The company today confirmed that Windows Phone 8 will be the next major version of its mobile operating system, and it also revealed some of the big changes that WP8 will bring when it's released this fall. For example, Microsoft revealed that Windows Phone 8 will support the "latest and greatest hardware." That includes multi-core chipsets, more screen resolutions (800x480, 1280x768, 1280x720), and microSD card support.
Another big Windows Phone 8 feature that Microsoft touched on is better near field communications (NFC) support. Microsoft claims that WP8 will have the "most complete wallet experience," bringing support for things like credit and debit cards as well as membership/loyalty cards, access to saved deals and the ability to tap to make payments. Every Windows Phone will have access to the Wallet hub, and Microsoft says that the NFC secure element for Windows Phones will be stored on the device's SIM card rather than the phone itself. Orange in France will be the first carrier that Microsoft will be partnering with on the Windows Phone wallet program, but Microsoft says that it's working with AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile to get Windows Phone to play nicely with ISIS, and it's expected that an ISIS/Windows Phone solution will arrive next year.
One of the first Windows Phone 8 changes that users will notice is the new Start screen. As you can see above, the new Start screen will allow users to resize their tiles however they see fit, making important tiles large or just creating several small tiles to reduce the amount of scrolling needed.
Along with goodies like new screen resolutions and NFC support, Microsoft rattled off a number of other features that'll be coming with Windows Phone 8. This includes Internet Explorer 10 and better enterprise support, the latter of which will bring encryption and secure boot as well as device management. Windows Phone 8 will also feature Nokia Maps built-in. Nokia Maps will work offline and will also include turn-by-turn navigation. There'll also be expanded speech support in Windows Phone 8 that'll allow users to have "conversations with apps."
On the hardware side of things, Microsoft has confirmed that Nokia, HTC, Huawei and Samsung will be the first four manufacturers to release Windows Phone 8 hardware when the platform launches later this year. No specific device, spec or launch details were mentioned, but Microsoft did say that the devices will powered by Qualcomm processors.
Microsoft also touched a bit on what updates will be like for Windows Phone 8. The company revealed that all updates will be delivered over the air rather than forcing users to plug their phones into their computers like they currently do. Devices will also receive at least 18 months of update support after their launch. And for the more update-hungry folks out there, Microsoft will be introducing a program that'll allow enthusiasts to gain access to new updates before they're pushed to consumers.
Overall Windows Phone 8 looks like a pretty big step for Microsoft. There are quite a few features found in WP8 that are new to the platform, and I'm sure that many users are glad to see that Microsoft will be supporting multi-core processors and new screen resolutions as well. Now that manufacturers finally have the ability to include things like 720p displays and dual-core chips in their hardware, it'll be interesting to see what kinds of devices that they'll be able to cook up. What do you all make of Windows Phone 8? Have Microsoft's announcements left you interested in checking WP8 out this fall?