Back in October of 2010, Microsoft unleashed the latest chapter in its mobile strategy with the release of Windows Phone 7. A dramatic departure from the look and feel of its predecessor, Windows Phone 7′s radically different Metro UI was widely regarded as well ahead of its time.
Nearly two years later and despite recent their recent alliance with Nokia, Windows Phone 7 hardware has in some regards grown a bit long in the tooth. Still featuring single core processors and relatively low resolution WVGA displays, Windows Phone 7 devices were having difficulty competing in the (often pointless) specs race against the Android Army. To help alleviate this, Windows Phone 8 will feature support for multi-core processors and 3 screen resolutions—WVGA (800 x 480), WXGA (1280 x 768), and 720p (1280 x 720). Furthermore, Windows Phone 8 will finally support removable SD storage. However, hardware specifications are only a piece of the puzzle.
While the user interface was wildly different from what Microsoft had done previously with Windows Mobile 6, Windows Phone 7 was still based on the same core OS—Windows CE. Windows Phone 8 changes this thanks to a shared Windows Core. This means that all versions of Windows will feature the same kernel, and thus have much of the same networking and multimedia support. This should also enable more consumer choice in terms of hardware and attached devices.
Applications also stand to improve thanks to the shared Windows Core because porting existing Windows software to Windows Phone 8 will supposedly only require minimal code changes. In fact, the Shared Native API Set includes Graphics, Audio, Media, File System, Networking, Input, Commerce, Base Types, and Sensors.
The clean break with Windows CE is not without its own casualties, however. Unfortunately for current Windows Phone 7 users, Windows Phone 8 will not run on legacy hardware.
On the software side, Windows Phone 8 will ship with Internet Explorer 10, Nokia Map technology, and Microsoft Office. Windows Phone 8 will also support an integrated wallet experience using NFC technology and an ISIS back-end. The home screen will also sport a few changes, bringing increased customization to end users. Multitasking has been upgraded as well, allowing background location for navigation apps and deep integration for VoIP. And finally, all current Windows Phone 7.5 apps will run on Windows Phone 8.