Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 8 is incompatible with the newly released Nokia Lumia smartphones on the market, cutting out early adopters in a mercenary fashion.
Microsoft has said that Windows Phone 8 shares code with its desktop Windows 8, meaning that customers who bought Nokia’s new Lumia range of smartphones before Christmas – which run on its much hyped Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 operating systems – have no true upgrade cycle. (See CBR’s review of the Nokia Lumia 800 here)
Windows Phone 8 will be released in 2H 2012 ‘around autumn’ to coincide with the release of the desktop and tablet based Windows 8 and Windows RT. Existing Windows Phone 7.X users will get a halfway house update – Phone 7.8 – which will attempt to bring some of the core elements of the new operating system to existing customers.
Microsoft’s Greg Sullivan told attendees that current Windows Phone handsets (namely, the Lumia series) were not supported as they didn’t have the hardware capability, such as dual core processors. As CBR noted in the review of the Lumia 800 in December, that model, give or take some tweaks, appeared to be a retooled Nokia N9 – a then already year old single core model.
This does however put Nokia in a very tight spot – it has staked its company’s future on Windows Phone rather than pursuing Android alternatives and this will almost certainly create a Osborne Effect; customers wont touch any of its current models until Windows Phone 8 is released, which has no firm release date.
Nokia has been cutting and slashing costs where it can, and burning through its cash. Nokia’s current CEO, Stephen Elop, was a former Microsoft employee, and controversially led Nokia down this path.
Nokia’s flagship model, the Lumia 900, only launched in the US in April with a huge marketing spend – and is now effectively obsolete. Nokia has struggled to sell any Lumia devices – Nokia has said it sold 3 million units since launch. In the same period Apple sold 37m.
This is not the first time Microsoft has treated a mobile hardware partner poorly, Windows Mobile 6.X’s code was incompatible with Windows Phone 7, and similar issues were had earlier in the decade with moves between Windows Smartphone and Windows CE, as well as fractious relations with previous hardware partners such as UK phone maker Sendu.
By comparison, iPhone and Android devices hypothetically will run on any version of their operating systems, excluding obsolete models which simply don’t have the processing power to do so. Last week’s Apple announcement of iOS6 included support for the iPhone 3GS – which was released in 2009. Most high end Android’s released in the last two years are capable of running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) – although Google is expected to announce Android 5.0 (Jellybean) next week at Google I/O, and its system requirements are as yet unknown.
Windows Phone 8 will now support dual and quad core processors, vital for keeping up with high powered Android models such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X (which run NVidia’s Tegra 3 ARM-based Quad Core processor). Apple’s iPhone 4S also runs on its A5X dual core ARM processor.
Microsoft also announced a host of new hardware partners alongside Nokia, the only real hardware supporter of the Windows Phone platform. Samsung, HTC and Huawei have all signed up.
As CBR forecast, the new Windows Phone 8 operating system has direct Skype integration, NFC compatibility and a mobile wallet. It also includes an upgraded form of Nokia Maps, in place of Microsoft’s Bing Maps. Skype users can now multi-task, running VoIP calls and video chats in the background. The mobile wallet will combine virtual card storage with NFC payments – allowing users to use their phone as a wallet once enough retail terminals launch.
Phone 8 will now also support mini-SD cards as additional storage, matching a key Android feature, and screen resolutions up to 1366×768, enough for 720P HD viewing. Its new camera technology, which seems similar to BlackBerry10, allows users to take ‘burst’ photos, and then pick the best image – useful if someone closes their eyes for example.
The home screen, which still uses the Metro interface, is now more customisable, tiles can be shrunk and moved around – it now looks more like the desktop/tablet Windows 8/RT Metro home screen.
Microsoft has told app developers that Windows Phone 7.X apps will run on Windows Phone 8. Impressively, Windows Phone 8 is shares its kernel with Windows RT and Windows 8 – meaning that, hypothetically, common apps will be able to run on desktops, the newly announced Microsoft Surface tablet and the new range of phones. It will also share APIs, such as DirectX, drivers and the NT kernel, which will allow games and software to run on all three forms of hardware. Coding is also in C, C++ and XAML, which should make porting and app development easier.
Microsoft has continued its aggressive pursuit of app developers, announcing that Zynga’s popular Draw Something would be ported, and that Gameloft would be producing titles for the platform.