Last week the Windows Phone Summit took place and announced a number of notable things in the area of Windows Phone.  As usual, I’m going to call out the features that I believe are most relevant to the IT Pro and highlight those features and announcements. 

First and foremost, this event was the public announcement of Windows Phone 8, the next version of Windows Phone to become available this holiday season.  In keeping with the theme of the number “8”, the announcements of the major features of this new device platform were broken down into “8” different areas which I’ll outline below.   If you have the time and interest, the entire keynote is available here.

8 New cool things about Windows Phone 8

1. Shared Core with Windows 8 – Unlike previous generations of Windows Phone which were based on Windows CE, Windows Phone 8 has a shared core based on Windows 8 so things like drivers, networking and hardware-based security will be common between the platforms.

2. The latest hardware innovations – Multi-core support, new screen resolutions (current 480x800, 1280x768 and 1280x520) and FINALLY support for removable SD cards. Nokia, Samsung, HTC and others will be available this holiday season using the latest silicon from Qualcomm.

3. Internet Explorer 10 Engine – Full support for HTML5 including gestures, fantastic JavaScript performance fastest ever on a mobile device (benchmarks shown against top competitors in market including iOS6 Beta) as well as malicious site detection.

4. Native Support of C++ – Opens up Windows Phone to a much larger array of applications including hi-res games, plus adds significant application portability.  While not specific to the support of C++, all existing Windows Phone 7.5 applications will run on Windows Phone 8.

5. Most complete Wallet experience – Secure payment support direct from the phone via NFC (secure SIM and ISIS in the US), support for membership cards, coupons and deals, as well as in App purchase.

6. Nokia Map experience built in to all Windows Phone 8 devices – This awesome GPS experience currently only available on Windows Phone 7.5 Nokia devices will be built in and extend to all Windows Phone 8 devices and will include features such as full turn by turn directions as well as offline maps.

7. The business features you’ve been waiting for – Full support for device encryption via Bitlocker, secure boot, enterprise device management, LOB application deployment without the Marketplace, as well as continued support for online and the familiar Office applications. 

8. New Start Experience – What may be the most significant announcement for end users is the new even more customizable Start screen which now fills the entire screen, allows for three different tile sizes and more theme colors.  Multiple tile sizes will allow many more Live tiles to fill the Windows Phone 8 start screen while maintaining that regardless of tile size, the tile will still be Live and show updates from the application.

While these features are all fantastic, the usual question that comes up after a major announcement like this is “Is my current Windows Phone 7.5 device upgradable to Windows Phone 8?” To answer this question, I have both good news and bad news, first the bad news.  Existing Windows Phone 7.5 devices will not be upgradable to Windows Phone 8.  Before you get too down on this fact, the good news is that we announced Windows Phone 7.8 which will indeed be an upgrade for all current Windows Phone 7.5 customers.  This upgrade will include a number of the features announced in Windows Phone 8 including the new Start Experience.  More details on that to come.

Additional notable announcements in the area of Apps was that the Windows Phone Marketplace now has over 100,000 applications.  Over the 18+ months since it went live, the Windows Phone Marketplace reached this milestone faster than a number of the competitive marketplaces over the same time in market which is a significant accomplishment to say the least.  More major mobile applications are coming to the Windows Phone Marketplace every day including Zynga which announced that Words with Friends and other titles are coming to Windows Phone.

As I mentioned above, the Windows Phone Summit is available on demand here.

Stay tuned for more information on Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 7.8!

Enjoy!