Windows Phone 8 OS opens up to multicore processors, NFC

Microsoft's young smartphone operating system promises to grow up with Windows Phone 8.

Josh Miller/CNET

Microsoft has just made its next-generation mobile operating system official, and Windows Phone 8 promises to get people talking with its hardware implications, mobile payments, and tighter relations to the Windows platform.

Multicore is here
With quad-core phones on the horizon, Windows phones couldn't remain single-core for long. Windows Phone 8 will support dual-core, quad-core, and theoretically up to 64-core processors. Don't hold your breath for that last one, but do start looking for the world's first dual-core processor Windows Phone.

Microsoft has often talked about wanting to get multi-core processors "right" in terms of power consumption and performance balance, so the pressure is on.

Three new screen resolutions
The rumors were spot on. Windows phones will get support for three new screen resolutions: WVGA (800x480 pixels), WXVGA (1280x768), and "True 720p" (1280x720).

More shared coding with IE10
Though Internet Explorer 10 hasn't been officially released yet, Microsoft said that the code for IE10's desktop version will be very similar to that on the phone. This will allow the mobile browser to take advantage of the desktop's more robust security features like its online phishing detector and SmartScreen Filter. Using a database of reported phishing and harmful Web sites, SmartScreen can warn or stop users from visiting said sites -- a feature the mobile version will also be able to execute.

Hello, MicroSD card
The people have grumbled and Microsoft has listened. In the next update, Windows Phones will get support for a MicroSD expansion slot, which could give phones running Redmond's OS a memory boost up to 16GB, 32GB, or even potentially 64GB of extra memory.

MicroSD cards also let users transfer data from the phone to the PC and side-load apps.

A new start, a new screen
Though Microsoft's Metro user interface isn't going anywhere, its startup screen will get a facelift. With Windows Phone 8, live tiles will fill up a handset's entire screen instead of being located more to the left.

Furthermore, users will now be able to choose between three tile sizes. There'll be the familiar medium and large (otherwise referred to as "double wide") options, as well as a new, smaller box.

Smaller tiles are ideal for applications that require a minimum amount of space to convey necessary information (for example, the phone dialer tile). However, individuals can customize the size of each app's tile.

Windows Phone 8 Startscreen
The Windows Phone start screen will soon come with three tile sizes. Screenshot by Microsoft

These small and medium-size tiles can be rendered by default through the OS. However, third-party app developers will now be able to develop the design of how their apps would appear in a double-wide tile format -- an option previously available only to Microsoft Windows Phone, OEMs, and operators.

More tile colors and themes will also be added to increase the level of personalization and customization. And even though devices running Windows Phone 7 won't be upgradable to version 8, at least the new start screen will be available for these handsets.

NFC and mobile wallet
Support for near field communication (NFC) will let Microsoft create its own wallet and mobile payments experience. Microsoft is going after Google and Apple with plans for an app that will both facilitate tap-to-pay and store information, passport style. Chase will be one partner.

Windows Phone and Windows
It's no surprise that Microsoft is leaning toward one platform to rule them all. Windows Phone 8 will share much of the same native code used in Windows desktop, including the file system, networking stack, security model, media pipeline, device drives, networking, and graphics codes.

Microsoft says that sharing code resources will make it easier for Windows developers to create and port Windows Phone apps. The same code support applies to Android and iOS developers whom Microsoft also say will be able to more quickly and cheaply port apps to their platform.

Seamless Skype and friends
Microsoft will integrate VoIP (voice over IP) calling apps like Skype (which it owns) and others so that calls placed and answered through these third-party services will look and feel like native phone calls.

Some other features:

  • In-app purchases
  • Windows desktop-level security
  • Greater enterprise controls for IT managers
  • Development in C, C++

This is a developing story. Look for updates throughout the day.

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