Microsoft previews Windows Phone 8

On the heels of its Surface tablet announcement, Microsoft has previewed another major product due out later this year: Windows Phone 8. The guys at The Verge were on the scene at the company's Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco this morning, and they liveblogged the event.

Based on their coverage (Microsoft doesn't have an official press release out yet), it looks like the rumors were true and Windows Phone 8 will indeed share a foundation with its PC counterpart, Windows 8. The two operating systems will have common code and common programming interfaces, and porting applications between them should be feasible with very little work. Making pure web apps work on both platforms should be straightforward, as well, since Windows Phone 8's version of Internet Explorer 10 will reportedly have the same rendering engine as the Windows 8 flavor.

Unfortunately, and I expect because of its new underpinnings, Windows Phone 8 won't work on any current Windows Phone devices. Microsoft was categorical about that limitation. Older handsets will have to make do with Windows Phone 7.8, a partial upgrade that will feature Windows Phone 8's revamped Start screen (now with more tile sizes!) but lack some of the next-gen mobile OS's more fundamental additions.

To get Windows Phone 8, then, you'll have to spring for a new phone. Microsoft said those will be available from Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and Huawei featuring "Next Generation" Qualcomm silicon. Microsoft said it will be "focusing on dual-core chipsets for this fall," so that next-gen Qualcomm silicon will likely be dual-core. (Windows 8 will be able to support additional CPU cores, though.) Also, since Windows Phone 8 will accommodate 1280x720 and 1280x768 display resolutions, I expect at least some of the next-gen Windows Phone handsets will have uber-high-density screens.

Other new features in Windows Phone 8 include Nokia mapping technology with turn-by-turn navigation, a Wallet electronic payments app with near-field communication support, Skype integration, over-the-air software updates, and corporate-friendly additions like BitLocker encryption. Microsoft is quoting a nebulous "fall" release schedule for Windows Phone 8, which pretty much matches the timeline given for Windows 8.

For more details, you can check out The Verge's liveblog here. Microsoft also has a replay stream of the event on this page.

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