A leaked internal video viewed by Pocketnow features Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's Windows Phone champion, enthusiastically talking up Windows Phone 8 and its new features.
Windows Phone 8 is working under the codename "Apollo." This update will arrive after the Tango update, which Microsoft will probably detail at Mobile World Congress later this month. Time frames for Apollo and Tango aren't available, though Window Phone 8's launch will likely be tied to the launch of Windows 8.
So what's new? Plenty.
First up, Microsoft is finally broadening the hardware parameters. Windows Phone 8 will support dual-core processors, removable memory cards, and will add support for a total of four new screen resolutions (WP7 and WP7.5 are limited to 800 x 480 pixels). Belfiore didn't say what the new resolutions will be, but you can assume there will be a lower-res spec for low-cost smartphones and an HD spec for high-end media devices. The first and second generation Windows Phone devices have been held back by some of the hardware requirements (storage, processor power, screen resolution, etc.).
Belfiore also spoke of the "Wallet experience" and support for near-field communications. These two elements together will enable Windows Phone 8 to offer contactless payments and tap-to-share actions with other devices.
These alterations to the hardware alone will help Microsoft's OEM partners offer more differentiated devices and experiences moving forward.
Let's not forget about Windows 8. According to Belfiore, Windows Phone 8 will share significant blocks of code (source kernel, multimedia, network stacks, security) with Windows 8. This means it will be easier for application developers to port full Windows apps to Windows Phone 8. WP8 will also step away from Microsoft's Zune desktop client for syncing media and other content. It will instead favor a new version of the ActiveSync client.
WP8 will bring greater symmetry between Xbox and Windows 8. Users will be able to share their content seamlessly between devices. Other juicy nuggets from the video mention full, OS-wide support for Skype (which Microsoft purchased in 2011); app-to-app communication; and new tools for developers to use for accessing hardware features such as the camera.
Belfiore spent some time talking about a new feature called DataSmart. DataSmart will help reduce the network needs of WP8 and will, for example, give the Wi-Fi radio preferential treatment when it comes to connecting to save packets sent via 3G/4G cellular networks. Belfiore touched on the idea of Wi-Fi radios that can locate carrier-owned hotspots and connect to them automatically. WP8 will also introduce new tools that help device owners better manage their data needs, such as a live tile that shows monthly data consumption.
Last up, Windows Phone 8 will add some elements that should catch the eye of IT departments. WP8 may add built-in BitLocker encryption. This would provide 128-bit encryption of the device's entire ROM.
All these updates to Microsoft's mobile platform are important, pointing to a Microsoft vision for the future of its "8" software platforms. Users will have to wait and see whether all the additions spoken of by Belfiore make it to the final build.