Thursday, June 21, 2012

Windows Phone 8 - Whats on the horizon?

Earlier in the month we saw Apple announcing iOS version 6 and now we hear Microsoft announcing Windows Phone 8 for the phone. Earlier this week, microsoft showcased the windows tablet "surface". A cool video i must say. Earlier I thought of writing a detailed post on what is the enterprise readiness for the mobile platform and then compare all platforms head on head. But i think with Windows and iOS new version announcement, i would first cover what I learn from these versions. 

My colleague Ram covered the iOS 6 in his recent blog post here, so let me constrain here with Windows Phone :)

The Windows phone 8 update will not be a full update to the existing windows phone devices. Thats the sad news. They will only get 7.8 update with just a minor set of features like start screen. This is mainly due to the new base on which the Windows Phone OS is designed. Microsoft claims that WP 8 is a convergence of age old windows OS with latest Metro design and newness in mobile world. It looks like, the new windows phone OS shall support higher resolutions and multi-core processors. It means better games and faster apps. The discontinued support actually means only limited features from WP8 will be enabled on the existing WP7.5 phones. This is i think obvious as a lot of features are dependent on the hardware.

NFC, Digital Wallet and More...
Microsoft has built NFC, external SD card and digital wallet into the new WP version. NFC and SD cards were expected but digital wallet surprises as it just comes after Apple's passbook announcement from iOS 6. Apple constrained their passbook offering to boarding passes, coupons but Microsoft took it to combine features from google wallet and apple passbook. Windows Phone 8’s new digital Wallet feature offers better experience than google and apple. It can keep debit and credit cards, coupons, boarding passes, and other important info in the digital wallet. And when paired with a secure SIM from supporting carrier, spot payments can be made at compatible checkout counters.

New Pure OS features
In the new Windows Phone version, the IE 10 will be bundled. The start screen is smartly refreshed. The notable innovation on the start screen is ability to resize the tiles into 1/4th of curent screen size. This means, once can keep the tiles they like with the sizes they want! If i like reading SMS on the tile itself, just stretch it to full width tile or if i dont use the phone app much, squeeze it to 1/4 of the screen! Pretty cool. I personally use the Windows Phone for past 6-8 months and i love the tiles! This would be one feature i would certainly vote high! With new windows phone version, the maps are getting revised too. Microsoft and Nokia are merging their maps to build beter one. Not really sure hw much will this score against industry giant google maps and new kid on the block - apple maps. The windows phone among other features now supports multi-lingual interfaces and languages for around 50 countries. The OS updates will be delivered over the air similar to close rivals iOS and Android.

Windows Phone 8 SDK enhancements
Support for native C and C++ code would lead to older C++ apps and device interface apps to run smoother and with lesser efforts. DirectX based games and screen rendering would be a breeze provided now phone hardware is keeping up with this pace. this may mean some of the old C/ C++ games start popping up on the app store! I can now bring some of my proprietary hardware interface code to work for enterprise apps easily on the phone. Another welcome addition is in-app purchases and VOIP app integration into people hub. Not just Skype but apps like tango, IM etc can now build the interfaces right into the people hub with calling facility. This creates the hope for apps like gTalk to be able to use for calling from the phone directly from the app hub. The question would be if google would do that app someday :D)

Enterprise Support
A big leap from the earlier version, Windows Phone now supports the enterprise use of devices. The device management, security and policy enforcement, app deployments and custom app stores would be a possibility with new windows phone version. The entire device encryption has been enabled wherein one can set the device OS, contents and all data to be securely encrypted. Windows phone will now support UEFI (United Extensible Firmware Interface) boot protocol to enhance security. Microsoft claims that the same tools used for windows desktop devices management can be used to remotely manage the windows phone devices too. The remote wipe, install, uninstall would be a possibility. The biggest yet enhancement targeted for enterprises is Company Hub and apps. This will enable the custom application to be distributed in secure an private manner to limited audience in the enterprise.

Although we havent got chance to play with any physical phone that runs windows phone 8 yet, it looks like microsoft is slowly catching up with apple and google. The Gartner, IDC, CommScore etc have some or the other way hinted at windows phone being a string contender for enterprise grade OS. [Refer this link] Blackberry is fast fading but Microsoft is not. The future of Nokia can be still doubted but windows phone sure looks promising. I just hope that apple keeps the pace with its iPhone 6 for hardware innovation and pushes the limits further. The mobile OS war is now seems to be getting focused around Microsoft, Google and Apple in the ascending order of leadership of course. Will this change in near future? I guess so but as they say, to test the reality, you can to live in reality. Lets just wait and watch. Oh i should say, develop apps and watch :)

Quick Note: For those who are interested in a detailed view of earlier WP version view, visit this blog by Basavraj.

Disclaimer: All the information here about windows phone 8 are based on Windows Phone team blog by Microsoft. And of course "IMO, I feel, I guess" are my omments :)