Microsoft: Windows Phone 8 Will Be Upgradeable
BARCELONA - Whither Microsoft at Mobile World Congress 2013? Apparently, at an offsite hotel having at least eight partner meetings a day and not throwing a press conference. According to Greg Sullivan, a senior marketing manager at Microsoft, the company's absence from the MWC press conference list this year comes down to a new commitment to "shut up and ship."
"We're not going to do this thing where we announce the next version [of Windows Phone] months and months before it's available," he said. With Windows Phone 8 only a few months old, Microsoft is in the middle of its product cycle.
"Over the course of the next several months, I wouldn't be surprised to see some exciting new devices and more interoperability before we start talking about what [opeating system] is next," he said.
That next operating system update is rumored to be codenamed "Windows Phone Blue," but Sullivan wouldn't comment. He said that current Windows Phone 8 owners have nothing to fear from upgrades, unlike Windows Phone 7 owners who weren't able to update to 8.
"We're going to have an upgrade path going forward," he said.
Sullivan also said that Windows Phone 8 was flexible enough to adopt new hardware components. That was a big problem for Windows Phone 7, which was trapped with a prescribed spec that made its phones look old by midyear after launch.
Sprint Promises ‘Fresh’ Windows Phone 8 Handsets
LAS VEGAS—Sprint is coming late to the Windows Phone 8 party, with phones on the new OS coming this summer, months after they arrived on the three other big national carriers. Sprint's Windows Phone 8 devices won't be retreads, however, according to Sprint's director of device delivery Ryan Sullivan.
"They'll be current," he said. "We're working for current product launches, and not necessarily to launch on six-month-old hardware."
This is a concern as slow-moving hardware upgrades are one of the things that doomed Windows Phone 7. Microsoft only approved one round of hardware a year, so phones that appeared later in the cycle looked old. Sullivan referred to Sprint's upcoming launches as a "generation" of Windows Phones, though, raising hope that they won't just be another round of Nokia 822 and HTC 8X devices.
"We're trying to work with Microsoft to make sure what we deliver is very high quality," he said. "The platform integration and the services that we want to bring aren't the only things we want to make fresh."
Sprint didn't find success with its Windows Phone 7 device, but it's finally changed its tune on Windows Phone 8. The difference, Sullivan said, is that Windows 8 has helped develop synergy across Microsoft properties, leading to greater potential success as the Xbox, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8 experiences come together.
Google Restoring Access to Maps on Windows Phones
Google said today that it is working to restore access to Google Maps on Windows Phone-based gadgets. The search giant blamed the blackout on a poor maps experience on Microsoft's mobile platform.
The problem cropped up on Friday, when Windows Phone users trying to access the mobile Web-based version of Google Maps found themselves redirected to Google.com on their phones. PCMag's Sascha Segan confirmed the problem on his own HTC 8X.
At the time, Google stayed mum, but the company said today that the redirect was necessary in order to provide the best experience on the mobile version of Internet Explorer.
"We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users," Google said in a statement. "In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality."
That's because the mobile version of Google Maps is optimized for browsers running Webkit, which Microsoft does not use.
As a result, Google said that it "chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com." That phrasing seemed to suggest that the redirect was in place for longer than the last day or two, and Google confirmed that it was, but did not have an exact date for when it was put in place.
Windows Phone to Top BlackBerry in U.S. by Year’s End
Microsoft's Windows Phone platform has been slow to make gains in the U.S. thanks to the market-dominating Android and iOS operating systems, but new data suggests that Windows Phone might at least best RIM's BlackBerry in the U.S. by year's end.
Over the weekend, WMPoweruser.com said that data from StatCounter suggests that Windows Phone market share in the U.S. will surpass that of RIM's BlackBerry by Nov. 2012.
The blog made an estimation based on trends in StatCounter data and said the move will cement Windows Phone as a "very minor" third player in the U.S. mobile OS market.
StatCounter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
RIM, however, has been struggling for some time in the U.S., so a gain for Windows Phone in the U.S. at the expense of BlackBerry is more a function of RIM's demise than Microsoft's success. Still, Redmond is prepping to unveil its updated Windows Phone 8 OS alongside the Windows 8 operating system, so things could pick up for the nascent platform.
In-App Purchases Coming to Windows Phone 8, Not Earlier Versions
Microsoft is finally bringing in-app purchases to Windows Phone, but it will only be available on the upcoming Windows Phone 8.
Recent Microsoft guidelines confirm that users and developers working with the current version of Windows Phone - and the upcoming Windows Phone 7.8 upgrade - are out of luck when it comes to in-app purchases.
Windows Phone 8 is expected to debut in the fall. Microsoft confirmed in June that existing Windows Phone 7 devices will not be eligible for a full Windows Phone 8 upgrade. But they will get a small boost to Windows 7.8, which includes some but not all of the features coming to Windows Phone 8, like a new home screen with more columns, resizable tiles, and new themes.
The Verge said that Microsoft's wallet hub, slated to debut on Windows Phone 8 as an in-app purchase management system, could be why Windows Phone 7 will be left in the dust.
More details about submitting an app with in-app purchase components are available on Microsoft's Dev Center site. Microsoft today unveiled its upgraded Windows Phone Dev Center with PayPal support and various infrastructure changes aimed at making app development a smoother process.
AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon to Carry Windows Phone 8
Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8 today, saying it would launch with Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and HTC phones. But these phones won't sell well in the U.S. market without support from the U.S. carriers.
We reached out to major U.S. operators to find out if they'll support Windows Phone 8. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all confirmed that they will carry Windows Phone 8 devices. Cricket, MetroPCS and Sprint have stayed coy, and we haven't heard back from U.S. Cellular yet.
AT&T: The company sent me this statement. "AT&T plans to carry a new line of Windows Phone 8 smartphones launching later this year. The unmatched leader in Windows Phone – offering the very first 4G LTE Windows Phone smartphones in the U.S. – AT&T is home to the most robust Windows Phone portfolio of any carrier."
T-Mobile: "T-Mobile is very bullish on Windows 8 and will be a partner at launch," a company spokesman told us via e-mail. The carrier followed up with an official blog post extolling Windows Phone 8.
Verizon Wireless: "We have said publicly that we will support the Windows Phone 8 platform," a spokesperson told us via e-mail, but didn't give details on exactly when. However, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told Reuters in April that the phones would be coming by the end of the year.
Cricket, MetroPCS, and Sprint are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Windows Phone 8 Announced: It’s Windows 8, On a Phone
Windows Phone is finally living up to the name. Microsoft today announced Windows Phone 8, which replaces the old Windows CE core of Windows Phone 7 with the same kernel in its big brother, desktop Windows 8. That means big changes for a critically acclaimed platform that's been struggling in the market.
Microsoft's announcement comes at a developer's conference in San Francisco; we spoke earlier to Microsoft's Windows Phone senior product manager Greg Sullivan to get the scoop.
The new Windows Phone 8 will look and act a lot like Windows Phone 7.5, Sullivan said. You'll still have the live tiles and the same 100,000 apps. The home screen will be enhanced: you'll now be able to fill the screen with tiles if you like. The two existing tile sizes will be joined by a third, smaller tile. Tiles will be resizable, and the OS will be available with a wider variety of colors and themes.
But Windows 8 will be much more tightly tied to Windows Phone 8 than Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7 were, something Sullivan called "bidirectional sharing." They'll share the same kernel, the same file system, and the same basic interface metaphor, Microsoft's new array of sliding tiles which it calls "Metro."
"There's a degree of synergy between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. There are also some key differences, which we'll also articulate. But there are key benefits we get from sharing both a core underlying technology infrastructure and a similar UX," Sullivan said.
The new OS will support three screen sizes: the existing 800 by 480, 1280 by 720, and 1280 by 768. Apps will automatically scale to fit, and developers won't have to create multiple versions, Sullivan said. And while he didn't promise any specific processors, he said the new kernel supports up to 64-core processors.
Windows Phone 8 is coming this fall, Sullivan said.
"We're saving the hardware announcements for closer to general availability this fall," he said.
Android to Outpace Windows Devices by 2016
Sales of Android-based devices are on track to eclipse Windows-based gadgets by 2016, according to new data from IDC.
A separate report from Nielsen, meanwhile, finds that just about half of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones, and the majority of those who purchased a mobile device in the last three months opted for a smartphone over a feature phone.
IDC examined global shipments of smart connected devices, which include tablets, PCs, and smartphones. The firm estimated a "relatively dramatic shift" in the next four years as Windows-based devices lose their lead to Google's Android platform.
"The once-dominant Windows on x86 platform, consisting of PCs running the Windows operating system on any x86-compatible CPU, [will slip] from a leading 35.9 percent share in 2011 down to 25.1 percent in 2016," IDC said. "The number of Android-based devices running on ARM CPUs, on the other hand, will grow modestly from 29.4 percent share in 2011 to a market-leading 31.1 percent share in 2016. Meanwhile, iOS-based devices will grow from 14.6 percent share in 2011 to 17.3 percent in 2016."
Skype for Windows Phone App Released in Beta
Attention all Windows Phone users — you can now Skype with friends on your phone!
Skype over the weekend released a beta version of the Skype for Windows Phone app, bringing the popular internet calling service to the Windows Phone platform. With Skype for Windows Phone beta, users can make free calls audio and video calls, excluding any potential data charges, to other Skype users over 3G, 4G, or WiFi networks. Users can download the app now from the Windows Phone Marketplace app store.
"Many of you have been waiting for this," Rick Osterloh, VP of product at Skype, wrote in a blog post Sunday.
With the app, users can also make paid calls to landlines and other mobile devices by first paying for Skype Credit. Other features allow users to hold one-to-one and group chats, as well as update their profiles and account information. A YouTube video shows the features of the new app.
Windows Phone 8 Details Gush Across Web
A pair of reports unleashed a tidal wave of information about Windows Phone 8 on Thursday afternoon, describing everything from hardware improvements to a wallet experience, plus an Opera Mini-like proxy to a tight integration with Windows 8.
PocketNow revealed the initial details. The site said that it had obtained a video starring Microsoft mobile phone guru Joe Belfiore, apparently intended for Nokia executives. Windows watcher and blogger Paul Thurott then chimed in with his own report conforming many of the same details, and referencing a recent post by Microsoft executives on how Windows 8 will interact with mobile broadband.
Microsoft declined to comment.
The relationship between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 (codename: Apollo) goes beyond just the name, according to PocketNow; apps designed for Windows 8 should run on Windows Phone 8 with a minimum of tweaking, and vice versa. PocketNow wasn't sure if the new release would maintain backwards app compatibility; Thurott claimed it would. All current Windows Phones run Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango," pictured.