The next generation of Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system will use the same core technology as the upcoming Windows 8 operating system for desktop PCs and tablet computers. But owners of mobile phones that run on current versions of Windows Phone won't be able to upgrade to the new mobile OS.
Microsoft will provide owners of phones that run on Windows Phone 7.5, the current release of the mobile OS, and earlier versions with an interim Windows Phone 7.8 that will provide them with the same start screen that Windows 8 will offer.
Developers got a look at Windows Phone 8, which has been under development under the code name "Apollo," at the Windows Phone Developer Summit in San Francisco Wednesday. Microsoft said the software would be available later this year in 50 languages.
Microsoft indicated that its current handset manufacturer partners are on board with the direction of Windows Phone. "We're really excited about the strong line-up of hardware partners who are putting their support behind Windows Phone 8," said Joe Belfiore, Windows Phone corporate vice president, in a blog post. "The first wave of devices for Windows Phone 8 will come from Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and HTC, all built on next-generation chips from Qualcomm," he said.
The move to build Windows Phone 8 on a different code base could, in the long run, strengthen Microsoft's position in the mobile phone arena where it lags Apple's popular iPhone and a number of mobile phones based on Google Android.
The new software, for example, will support a greater range of smartphone devices, including those with multi-core processors and removable MicroSD storage cards, and support 720 x 1,280 and 768 x 1,280 screen resolutions, as well as the current 480 x 800. It also will support the next-generation NFC wireless technology.
ISVs that develop applications for the Windows 8 Metro user interface will be able to adapt those applications for Windows Phone 8. The new OS will natively support C and C++ programming languages. And Windows Phone 8 will include the Internet Explorer 10 Web browsing engine.
Microsoft is also making Windows Phone more appealing for business users by including more advanced Secure Boot and Bitlocker encryption security technology and adding remote management capabilities for the phones and their applications.
But Windows Phone 8 marks a break with all earlier releases of Windows Phone, which were built on the aging Windows CE mobile operating system. That means consumers who have purchased smartphones running those earlier Windows Phone editions -- including the much-ballyhooed Nokia Lumina 900 -- won't be able to upgrade to Windows Phone 8 with their current handsets.
The move could also put a damper on sales of Windows Phone devices between now and when phones running Windows Phone 8 become available.
Microsoft also said the Windows Phone Marketplace that offers applications from Microsoft and third-party developers has hit the 100,000 market. Applications written for Windows Phone 7.5 will run on Windows Phone 8. But applications written in native Windows Phone 8 code won't be backwardly compatible with older devices, leading to the threat of application fragmentation.