No Tile Unturned: The Windows Phone 8 Launch Preview

So in the past 72 hours Microsoft released (or unleashed some would say) Windows 8 to the public along with its first branded device, the Microsoft Surface. Today Microsoft will unveil Windows Phone 8, its update to Windows Phone.

Unlike Windows 8, Windows Phone 8’s story has been murky. It made a brief appearance over the summer at a one day preview. It has had PR from lack of a timely SDK to developers, as well as users of current devices being unable to upgrade devices to the OS; more later. There has also been controversy over hardware.

Samsung, Nokia, and HTC have all shown off Windows Phone 8 hardware; the ATIV S, Lumia 920/820, and 8x/8s respectively. However no one has had a real hands on with the devices and information on carriers was spotty (disappointing in exclusivity).

The secrecy around Windows Phone and the new SDK has lead to backlash; developers wanting to target new features have complain about the lack of transparency. Early adopters of Windows Phone are also in a uproar because the new OS will not be available to current handsets and the update available, 7.8, will not have all the features of Windows Phone 8.

For the uninitiated Windows Phone 8 brings a number of under the hood changes; support for dual and multiple core chipsets, new security features, and voice APIs. The changes have been brought on by the move from an Embedded system to Windows NT itself (NT is the kernel upon which Windows runs). The move breaks compatibility to previous gen hardware.

Today’s San Francisco event will be the OS’s full unveiling, there will also be similar event in England, Spain, Italy, and other countries. There was worry that Google would spoil festivities with a competing event to be held today, but Hurricane Sandy forced them to cancel. So other than a hurricane, Microsoft will have the day to itself.

So what should you expect? Well other than an overview of the platform changes; the move to NT (called Windows Core by the team) and the new Start Screen which allows users to change Tile size and thus the information seen; not much. I think what today’s event will concentrate on will be new apps coming to the platform and what the new kernel will deliver in terms of speed and power. I expect a big push around games with addition of Direct X and the gaming engines from Havoc. Also a concentration on business and enterprise. I don’t expect to see much in new features. There has been one rumored that I somewhat buy a plausible; the ability for apps to create a Live Wallpaper for the lock screen. I only buy it because of some images I’ve seen of certain Tiles like ESPN which were similar.

I’m hopeful for today’s presentation but I’m expecting many will be lat down from the lack of new surface changes and features (partially from letting their imaginations run wild). This may dampen the affair. However the changes seen are major in that it will see Windows Phone and Windows share more code and possibly the ability of developers to write apps for both at the same time.

Microsoft will be live streaming the event Here and be sure to check Engadget and The Verge for hands on and here (because I’ll miss you).

images: VSS Zone, Nokia Innovation

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