Microsoft Previews Windows Phone 8 (But it’s not for Everyone)

Microsoft Previews Windows Phone 8 (But it's not for Everyone)

Many of you know that I recently made the move over to Windows Phone as my daily driver. On the whole I’ve been pretty happy with it, but my big hopes have been pinned around the potential the platform has. Today MS made some announcements about the upcoming Windows Phone 8 (OS and devices)– some good.. some bad. As a recent Windows Phone convert, these announcements definitely had an impact on me, and I thought we might take a look at exactly what was announced… and what it might mean for the future of Windows Phone.

Apps: Windows Phone currently has more than 100,000 apps.  This was a major recent milestone and Microsoft officially confirmed it today.  The more interesting thing about the announcement was the fast that they included the two Zynga titles, Words with Friends and Draw Something, in the announcement even though those games are not currently available for Windows Phone.   That suggests they are coming soon (Nokia owners will get a 2 month exclusive and release it tentatively set to “fall”) and THAT is great news for those of us who have hoped to see those titles on the platform!

Windows Phone 8: The big show was, of course, all about showing off Windows Phone 8.  The Windows Phone 8 is a ground-up rewrite of the OS- even though the OS is the newest of the major mobile operating systems.  Metro apps will work on Windows Phone 8. That means the same apps that will run on the upcoming Windows RT and Pro tablets and Windows 8 will run on Microsoft’s phone OS too. That’s good news for people who use various devices.

Announcements were made by AT&T, and T-Mobile that they are committed to the having devices running the new OS before the end of the year.  Verizon also indicated plans to carry Windows Phone 8 device  but offered no hard date.  Sprint made no committment at all.

Devices running Windows Phone 8 will initially come from a variety of manufacturers that includes Nokia, Huawei, HTC, and Samsung.  That is a smaller number of companies than supported Windows Phone 7.x, but it is still respectable.

The new devices will be powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 plus processor. (By comparison, the current Nokia Lumia 900 is powered by a Snapdragon S2).

Windows Phone 8 will support more than twice as many languages as the current Windows Phone 7.5 devices (MS boasts that this is more than Apple).   It will support multitasking.  It will support in-app purchases.  It will support OTA (over-the-air) updates.  It will offer better voice support.  It will have IE 10.  It will have the capability to support microSD cards.  It will have a better UI (more tile sizes and flexibility). And it will support higher-resolution screens.

All of this is great news for anyone who plans on purchasing one of the new Windows Phone 8 handsets when they arrive.

But it is not all good news. Not by a long shot, so lets look at the bad stuff…

NO current devices will be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.  That’s right – none.  Zero. Zip. Nada. Klum. NONE!!!! Even the Lumia 900, just released a few weeks ago will be obsolete by year’s end.

MS IS going to “throw a bone” to current users by giving them Windows Phone 7.8, which will feature the new start screen, and “a few more features” (none of which were delineated). That’s it. People who invested in MS’ fledgling OS get a new start screen. Seriously?  (And no, I can’t even take the phrase “a few other features” seriously since we have no idea what those are supposed to be and promises like that from a company who is sunsetting every one of their recent devices within a year or so, if not a few month!  This is not a good thing.

And it gets worse… (as if that were possible.)

The new OS supports native apps.  Currently, under Windows Phone 7.x, developers must write apps based on Silverlight (among other things).  This means apps don’t run as efficiently as they could.  What does that mean?  It means that developers are going to be developing for the new OS so they can write native apps that will be more efficient and perform better.  That also means that their apps will be compatible with Windows Phone 8 and everything going forward, but NOT with Windows Phone 7.x.  In other words, developers are likely to limit or stop developing using Silverlight and the other methods available that support application development for Windows Phone 7.x devices.

So all current Windows Phone owners basically just got told that their device is obsolete.  Period.  Yup – even the just released Windows Phone flagship, the Nokia Lumia 900.  Obsolete.  So if you were hoping that a particular specialty app might someday be available, it just became a lot less likely.  Again – not good.

But you know, I get it.  The new OS has features that require a more powerful processor so we can’t run it on current devices.  But the Lumia 900 just came out!  And it is supposed to be the “premier” Window Phone device.  Really?  This sure doesn’t feel like it – obsoleted less than 2 months after release!   Even Apple supports current devices better and longer than that!  And even when Apple doesn’t offer all the new features to older devices, the apps generally remain compatible.  Not so here.  Again, developers can keep developing for Windows Phone 7.x and they will run on Windows Phone 8, RT, etc., but why would they?  In Windows Phone 8 they can develop natively so that their apps will perform a lot better.  So, again, in essence, it basically means that current Windows Phone 7.x users will soon be abandoned from an application development standpoint.  If Apple or Google made this kind of announcement the screams would be deafening, but there just aren’t that many Windows Phone users yet – maybe that’s why MS feels we are “an acceptable loss”.

Yeah – disappointment only begins to describe it.

Nokia is trying to mitigate the damage a bit for its customers by saying they will continue to support current devices and they have new software titles coming out for their devices (sorry HTC and Samsung owners, you’re not invited to the party).  But really, that is small compensation for being told you now own an obsolete device.

I’m not unrealistic.  The reality is, that when you purchase a device you are not usually guaranteed updates.  No one “owes” you anything.  I know that any given company needs to move their platform forward.   And yes, I know it’s unreasonable to expect full support for “legacy devices” going forward, but I’ll admit that, in the case of Windows Phone, I did hope for at least a better 7.x update.  Or I hoped they would offer a big discount or other incentive to encourage those of us using Windows Phone 7.x  to move to Windows Phone 8 (something that could still happen).  So, right now this event feels just like another in a long stream of MS PR screw-ups and mistakes.  And as one of the now-apparent Windows Phone “beta testers” I have to say that it doesn’t feel good.  Not good at all.

There’s no good way to take being dumped.  None at all.

So here is the bottom line- Today MS announced reaching 100,000 Windows Phone apps. 100,000 apps that run on devices that, just a few moment later, they threw under the bus along with everyone who threw their tech-hat in the ring with them. Nice, huh?

How about you?  Are you a current Windows Phone 7.x user?  What do you think of todays announcements?

 

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About the Author

Christopher Gavula
Chris has been a COBOL programmer, a desktop support technician, network engineer, telecommunications manager, and even a professional musician. Currently, he is focused on deploying Voice over IP technologies in a large, corporate setting. He started working full-time at the tender age of 14, even before there were PCs, and will probably be working and trying to finish “just one more project” as he’s lowered into the grave.