Windows Phone 8 has some significant new features on board. Consumer-facing features such as the new Start screen and broader hardware support mean that Windows Phones will come in more shapes and sizes, and will be more customizable by end users.
The good news doesn't stop there. Windows Phone 8 adds a slew of under-the-hood changes for developers, including a shared kernel with Windows 8, new support for native C and C++, and Internet Explorer 10.
There's some bad news, however. Windows Phone 7 users get left in the dust, so to speak. Here are the specifics.
No WP8 Upgrade for WP7 Owners: None of today's shipping Windows Phone devices will be able to update to Windows Phone 8. That means the shiny new Nokia Lumia 900 that consumers just bought last month won't get the latest system software from Microsoft. In other words, Microsoft is screwing early adopters. That's not going to go over well.
Partial UI Tweak: Microsoft is going to deliver the most significant new feature of WP8 to WP7.5 devices in a small update called WP7.8. This update will bring with it only the Start screen changes that were detailed by Microsoft on Wednesday. As nice as this gesture is, there are so many other new features being left out that current hardware owners might feel as if they've been slapped in the face.
App Fragmentation: Apps written in the native Windows Phone 8 code will not be backward compatible with Windows Phone 7/7.5. That means the best apps for the best new platform won't work on older devices. Again, early adopters are screwed. However, all apps written for Windows Phone 7.5 will work on Windows Phone 8.
Old Hardware Left in the Dust: One of the big problems across the entire smartphone industry is the rate at which devices become obsolete. Windows Phone 8 completely obsolesces all previous Windows Phone hardware. The new hardware specs that will be featured by WP8 mean it can run on dual- and quad-core processors, offer high-rez screens, and add nifty features such as NFC. Aside from just the platform itself, WP7 device owners will be using badly outdated hardware, too.
Aside from leaving early adopters out of the party, Microsoft still failed to provide a deep-dive into all the consumer-facing features. Will the core apps will be updated, if so, how? What about integration and sharing across Windows 8 devices. Will users be able to sync content, user data, and settings across the Windows 8 ecosystem?
What Microsoft showed is certainly a good start, but the company still has to flesh out the details if it hopes to win over iOS and Android users down the line.
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