I’ll be honest, I’ve never used a Windows Phone extensively. And its not from lack of trying either – I don’t have a Cell C store in my area, and the only phones I’ve handled have been under owner supervision and only for two minutes. I really have no clue if I’ll even like it. But what I’ve seen so far does excite my inner geek, and with the news of the updates planned for Windows Phone Apollo I’m inching closer to choosing one as my main handset.
Windows Phone 7 launched in 2010 and gained traction with critics, the public and developers lauding the new interface, the ease of use and ergonomics involved in the interface design, and the simplicity that came with programming for the platform. Today, with Nokia and HTC as their major licensees, one major update done and over two million handsets worldwide, Microsoft has seen fit to now detail the next major OS update, codanamed Apollo.
Windows Phone differs to Android and iOS thanks to the integrated services it features. There’s Bing for maps and searches and augmented reality, Microsoft Skydrive for 25GB of free cloud storage and file syncing, Live Mail for mailbox hosting, Messenger for live chat and Microsoft Office Mobile, for the ultimate office-on-the-move.
Apollo builds on all of these and more with support for better hardware; integrated Skydrive services, a Skype app with video calling, NFC with Wallet functionality and a new kernel based off Windows 8. Also promised is better security for your device thanks to Bitlocker drive encryption, support for Exchange and Active Directory policies and a new software system to allow for inter-App communication. There’s also an Opera Mini-like service for IE 10 called “DataSmart” and even a new sync client (no more Zune for you).
While many of the features are self-explanatory, many developers choose to focus on the kernel change and inter-App communication. Sharing a kernel with Windows 8 means developers can use code for an app made for the desktop, changing around a few UI elements and adjusting everything for the smaller screen – exactly what Apple’s been doing with OSX Lion and iOS.
Lastly, inter-App communication works around WP7’s app sandbox, allowing apps to communicate with each other, bringing along in-app purchases linked to the Live Market. WP7 sandboxes installed apps so they can fail individually and avoiding the risk of a virus spreading from one app to the other; and now you’ll be able to send documents to a Skype contact while allowing them to see you’re now listening to the latest Britney Spears single while sitting in the nearby Wimpy.
And maybe we’ll finally see someone develop a file manager.