Microsoft has officially unveiled Windows Phone 8, the next-generation mobile operating system that’s going to power their upcoming devices. Probably the biggest feature built into the new OS is the fact that it shares the same source code found on the upcoming Windows 8 operating system for PCs. For developers, that means it should be easier to port apps to the mobile OS, while consumers should expect to get a wider range of apps to run (including DirectX-based games that match the PC versions).
It’s not all about the source code, though. The new OS is built to run on tomorrow’s smartphones, with added support for better hardware, including multi-core processors, higher screen resolutions (including 1280 x 720 and 1280 x 768), NFC technologies, and external storage like microSD cards.
Windows Phone 8 also features a number of new apps to take advantage of the hardware support. It’ll come with Wallet, which is basically a hub for making mobile payments via NFC. Besides handling credit card and payment info, Wallet will also feature Deals, or digital discount coupon codes, as well as a feature that looks for deals, promos and discounts nearby.
The in-phone map service will also be getting an overhaul. Instead of relying on Bing and a live connection, the app will be based on Nokia Maps, which allows for data storing on the phone for offline viewing.
There are a number of other features announced – mostly for businesses and corporate employees, as well as security and encryption features, but the most obvious update can be found on the new start screen. It now allows for more customization, including the ability to change the size and color of each live tile.
While most of the other functions will be exclusive to Windows Phone 8 – which won’t be available as an update to old/existing phones, by the way – Microsoft will be making this last feature available on phones running on WP7.5. For those that do, expect to get an update to Windows Phone 7.8 that comes with the new start screen. Upcoming Windows Phone 8 devices will be available from Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei later this year.
Microsoft has made the keynote video available here if you want to check out the announcement.