Microsoft has unveiled its Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system, but disappointed its current customers by confirming they won’t get the update.
Instead, users of Windows Phone 7.5 – codenamed Mango – will only be upgraded to the new home screen designed for the mobile OS, with Microsoft calling it the Windows Phone 7.8 edition.
“Some of you have been wondering, 'Will we also get Windows Phone 8 as an update?'. The answer, unfortunately, is no,” admitted Joe Belfiore, manager of the Windows Phone division at Microsoft, in a blog post.
“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.”
The new home screen features additional theme colours and introduces live tiles in three sizes, which users can choose between to represent their applications or people. The new sizes allow for text messages or e-mails to be shown in full, or for users to make all their apps small enough to fit on their home screen with minimal scrolling.
“The new Start screen is so useful and emblematic of what Windows Phone is about that we want everybody to enjoy it,” added Belfiore. But he also confirmed the update would not be rolled out to Windows Phone 7.5 users until after Windows Phone 8 – codenamed Apollo – is launched on brand new devices.
Windows Phone 8 handsets
Handsets can be expected from long-term partners of Windows Phone, Nokia and HTC, but Samsung and Huawei have also pledged their support to release devices running the mobile OS.
Windows Phone 8 is tied very closely to the Windows 8 PC OS, as it is based on the same Windows NT kernel. Features confirmed by Microsoft so far include multi-core processor support, compatibility for two new screen resolutions – 1280x768 and 1280x720 – and the ability to have removable microSD cards for more flexible storage.
It will also introduce near-field communications (NFC) technology for sharing photos and files between devices, as well mobile wallet capabilities.
But the handsets are not just for consumers, Belfiore insisted, and Windows Phone 8 has “moved into the workplace in a big way”.
Windows Phone 8 has built-in device encryption, supports the United Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) secure boot protocol, enables remote management of devices, and has improved sandboxing to prevent malware sneaking in.
Companies are also able to create their own Windows Phone 8 hubs so custom apps and employee information can be deployed on the handset.
A release date has yet to be confirmed, but it is expected to be this autumn, with developer kits launched over the coming months.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced it was entering the tablet market with two new devices called Surface. Both running Windows 8, the first will be based on ARM processors and Windows NT, whereas the second will run an Intel i5 processor and compete in the ultrabook market.