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'Apollo' Details Leaked for Windows Phone

The Windows Phone 8, or "Apollo," release of Microsoft's smartphone OS will integrate the phone with the core Windows 8 OS and restore enterprise-focused features to Microsoft's mobility platform, according to details obtained by an online news site.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined comment on reporting Thursday by Pocketnow.com about details in an allegedly leaked video that Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Windows Phone Program Management, reportedly created for Microsoft's phone partners at Nokia. However, another prominent news outlet vouched for the report's authenticity and SuperSite for Windows' Paul Thurrott used the occasion of the leak to release similar information that he implied he had been sitting on from other sources.

Judging by the information in the Pocketnow.com report, Microsoft is making architectural changes with Windows Phone 8 to leverage the biggest potential market share advantage in its considerable arsenal.

Currently, Microsoft badly trails Apple and Google in smartphone market share, making its efforts to persuade app developers to dedicate their limited resources to the Windows Phone OS a tough sell.

Yet if Microsoft could make Windows Phone apps interoperable with Windows 8 tablet apps and Windows 8 PC apps, the addressable market for Windows-focused mobile apps could become large enough to make the opportunity irresistible for developers.

According to the reports, Microsoft plans to take the integration of the desktop/tablet and phone OS much deeper than just the "Metro"-style tile user interface, potentially allowing intensive cross-platform development.

The phone and regular OS will share several key components, with heavy overlap in the kernel, the networking stack, security and multimedia, Pocketnow.com reported Belfiore as saying in the video. The steps will allow developers to "reuse -- by far -- most of their code," Belfiore reportedly said.

The Belfiore video also revealed that Microsoft expected 100,000 apps to be in Microsoft's marketplace when Windows Phone 8 launches. Given a rumored release date of Q4, that seems reasonable given that the Windows Phone Marketplace recently passed 50,000 apps. Even a 100,000 app count would leave Microsoft well behind Apple's 500,000-plus apps and Google's 400,000-plus apps, but Belfiore apparently promised Windows Phone 8 will help address that gap. The inclusion of native code support in the new version should ease porting of iOS and Android apps, according to Pocketnow.com. Meanwhile, Microsoft is also vowing backward compatibility for Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 apps in Windows Phone 8.

When Microsoft threw out the Windows Mobile platform in favor of a clean break with Windows Phone 7, the company abandoned many of the enterprise-friendly features that had helped that earlier Microsoft smartphone OS to a respectable market share.

After establishing Windows Phone as a consumer-first interface consistent with consumerization of IT trends, Microsoft now appears ready to try to build those business-friendly features in once again on the back end. According to the reports, new enterprise-focused features will include native BitLocker encryption, Secure Boot capabilities, some sort of return to ActiveSync (whether next to or in place of Zune seems unclear), Exchange ActiveSync policies, System Center configuration settings and the ability for businesses to distribute internal business apps behind the firewall.

There's also a slew of end-user features on tap, including support for multi-core processors, four different screen resolution options, removable microSD card storage, NFC radios, tap-to-share capabilities, the ability to track data usage, revamped Skype and Xbox clients and automatic preference for Wi-Fi connections.

If all of the details leaked Thursday are correct, and Redmond can execute on the plans, Microsoft will be taking a long stride back toward the center of the IT world with the Windows Phone 8-Windows 8 combination.

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Posted by Scott Bekker on February 03, 2012 at 11:58 AM

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Reader Comments

Fri, Feb 3, 2012

>"Apollo" release of Microsoft's smartphone OS will integrate the phone with the core Windows 8 OS and restore enterprise-focused features

It's about time - and only about 2 years late by the time it ships. As I and others have been pointing out in comments for over a year (since you guys seem to have been so overwhelmed by the Metro interface that you didn't notice), WinPhone7's complete lack of integration with the existing Windows and Office apps, its marked unfriendliness with business/enterprise uses and users, plus the requirement to write apps from scratch in a very limited development environment, has meant that there was no incentive at all for the millions of existing Windows users to own one. Its boneheaded reliance on continuous (and potentially expensive) data connectivity to the MS "cloud", poor security features, and incompatibility with anything on a Windows desktop or laptop except for a music player, have been evidence of astoundingly bad design and marketing strategy. Whether people liked the Metro interface or not (the subject of many of your and others' WinPhone blog posts) was almost completely irrelevant to why it has less than a 2% market share. Seems like MS may have finally figured that out.

Except that they seem to be making the same mistake with Win8 tablets. Possibly because of issues with moving off of Intel-only chips, they so far seem to be keeping the Win8 Metro/WinRT side totally disconnected from (as in not communicating at all with) the standard desktop/laptop Win8. So far, you can't connect to anything on the Win8 side from the Metro side except via an IP network connection. Can't get to a database, or Outlook, or even transfer files. Win8 Metro app development has similar kinds of restrictions as WinPhone7 has had as to what's allowed and what the tools support. The Win8 tablet OS still seems very consumer-centric rather than something that would encourage business use. It's certainly not (yet) geared toward a business model emphasizing "integration".

Oh and by the way, most people will still be running Win7 (or earlier) on their desktops and laptops long after WinPhone8 and Win8 Metro tablets come out - so the "integration" should not be exclusively with Win8 if MS really wants to motivate sales of Win8 phones and tablets. I've already seen speculation that people are starting to realize the limitations of a touch-only interface, but are tired of the Vista/Win7 UI and performance issues. If Win8 doesn't also address these problems, Windows itself may be on its way down. That's scary.

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