Windows Phone 8 Preview: Visual Tour 2

Microsoft Windows Phone 8 shares a close connection with Windows 8. Take a closer look at what that means for users, enterprises, and developers.

Microsoft provided an inside look at many of the major elements coming with Windows Phone 8 at an event this week in San Francisco. Windows Phone 8 , the next version of the company's mobile platform, is now moving in lockstep with Microsoft's evolution of its flagship Windows platform to Windows 8.

Microsoft hopes to establish a family of platforms that works across all computing devices, from the mobile phone to the tablet to the PC. Windows, of course, also powers various other industrial platforms, including ATMs, for example. Microsoft announced its own tablet--Surface--earlier in the week at a special event in Los Angeles.

The Windows Phone 8 announcement was aimed largely at Microsoft's ecosystem of developers and hardware partners, and somewhat at potential enterprise customers, more so than at smartphone consumers. While the company's executives revealed several end-user and consumer features--like the Wallet Hub, a new Start screen, upgraded hardware support (including support for NFC)--the major news revolved around the operating system's revamped kernel, which it now shares as common code with Windows 8.

Simply put: Microsoft wants to own the entire end-user computing experience, regardless of the computing device. Windows 8 was its first big step toward doing that, and Surface, the tablet Microsoft announced earlier in the week showed just how serious Microsoft is about that goal. Windows Phone 8 is the next major component.

Microsoft is using the commercial success of Windows as a predictor: 1.3 billion Windows users, Microsoft says, from the household to the enterprise, an unparalleled ubiquity, like it or not. With RIM's fate quietly chiseled away, Microsoft is well poised to make the enterprise its battle trench in mobile.

The message: developers can create applications that can leverage all of the screens Microsoft's software is powering. And it's a pretty powerful message, or at least the most powerful one Microsoft can tell, given its history in both the consumer and enterprise markets, and its entrenchment in both. From its support for native code, to new features for enterprise support (security, MDM, more flexible app deployment models) to significant new APIs, Microsoft made a big statement regarding Windows Phone 8.

But Microsoft's announcement was also a little short on details. There were prototype phones only, and executives were unprepared to answer questions beyond what the audience heard on stage. Microsoft promises that more updates will come in short order.

Dig into our slideshow to get a closer look at what Microsoft shared about Windows Phone 8 at this week's announcement.