There’s a lot to be excited about for this coming September and the months immediately proceeding. For most that excitement comes in the form of the impending September 12th iPhone 5/New iPhone announcement, which is fair enough. However, if you’ve been keeping tabs of Microsoft rumours you’d know of more than a few that suggest we’ll not only see Windows Phone 8 (WP8) unleashed around the same time, but also consumer sales of the first Windows 8 tablets, as well as the full release of the Windows 8 platform itself.
We’re actually quite excited for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. WP8 because of the potentially awesome ecosystem it could build alongside Windows 8, and Win8 because we can’t wait to try out a tablet that’s PC-centric, rather than mobile device-centric.
To make matters clear, the September timeframe isn’t much more than rumour at this point and it’s likely that we’ll see an October release. But October is still fairly close in the grand scheme of things, at least close enough for us to start speculating.
Windows Phone 7 had a bit of a rocky start as a mobile OS, but it’s still pretty fantastic and has a loyal user base. It’s elegant, simplistic, smooth and visually unique. Home screen integration is some of the best we’ve seen and customisation is actually pretty diverse, despite popular opinion.
However, with the announcement that WP8 will not be making its debut on pre-existing WP7 devices a lot of Microsoft’s hard-earned popularity as a smartphone manufacturer went out the window. It’s understandable that WP7 users might feel cheated or underappreciated, but there’s a very good reason that Microsoft chose to do this: it doesn’t want Windows Phone to end up like WebOS.
WebOS was a solid mobile OS that also had a fiercely loyal fan-base. However hardware-wise it was always a few steps behind the competition and lacked the sex-appeal of most top-end sellers like the iPhone and Samsung devices. WP7 has the sex-appeal, but suffers from the same hardware issues.
Currently the highest-end Windows Phone 7 smartphone is arguably the Nokia Lumia 900. The Lumia 900 is a great smartphone with a fluid UI, but on paper it leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, it has a unique polycarbonate design and yes, it’s probably the fastest and smoothest WP device out there. But all of that comes running on a mere single-core 1.4GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, a 4.3 inch display with paltry 480×800 resolution and, frankly, pretty large overall dimensions compared to screen size.
Compare that to the Samsung Galaxy S3’s quad-core 1.4GHz CPU, 1GB of RAM, 4.8 inch display with stunning 720p HD resolution and super-thin bezel and you can see Microsoft’s concern.
Is the Nokia Lumia 900 a great phone? Yes. But it just doesn’t seem like it’s enough when it’s effectively the flagship device for an entire OS. Microsoft seems to have realised this and, as a result, upped the ante with Windows Phone 8.
WP8 will be faster, more customisable and have exciting new cross-platform integration with its sister OS: Windows 8. WP8 will also support the Havoc 3D engine, the same graphics engine used to make game titles such as Skyrim and Assassin’s creed. This new breed of mobile OS will obviously require faster and more powerful hardware than anything currently available through Windows Phone 7 and will effectively take Microsoft’s smartphone OS about 2 generations of hardware in to its own future in one step, hopefully allowing it to catch up with the modern market.
WP7 will receive a mini-update to Windows Phone 7.8 that should allow for some new customisation options and efficiency increases, but it’ll be nothing on the new WP8 OS.
It’s a necessary step that we’re excited to see, even if it’s going to unfortunately leave behind some current users in its wake.
As for Windows 8 tablets, we’re super excited to see what the Windows 8 Pro line of tabs has to offer. Yes, the Windows 8 RT tablets sound like a bit of fun too, but we feel that they’ll be more of a direct Android competitor, whereas Windows 8 Pro seems keen to show users what a fully armed and operation tablet can do in the hands of a PC-worthy operating system.
While the Windows 8 Pro tablet line is unlikely to be a direct competitor with the iPad, as it should attract a slightly different kind of customer, we’re still very interested to see if public response will mirror our own excitement and intrigue.
Ultimately we’ll also have the Windows 8 OS release for PC. Of course we expect Win8 to see a larger adoption on PC than tablet and an overall larger number of users than WP8, but it’s probably the element of this story that we’re least interested in. Yes, Windows 8 is bringing some new game to town, but we’re mostly concerned with the cross-functionality elements that it will hopefully share with Windows Phone 8, as well as Xbox Live.
We’re still looking forward to the Windows 8 PC release, mind you, we’re just not super excited about it as a PC platform by itself. Hopefully its functionality and price-point will prove impressive as a stand-alone OS, but with so much focus going in to the Microsoft ecosystem as a whole we doubt that a dizzying amount will change for non-Xbox, non Win8 tablet and non-WP8 users.