Windows Phone 8 “Apollo”: Windows 8 kernel, more form factors

Microsoft’s partner ecosystem is vulnerable to leaks, as demonstrated today by reports of a video said to have been made for Nokia, which arrived in the hands of a smartphone review website. The leaked information was corroborated by Windows journalist Paul Thurrott who has received advance information independently from Microsoft, but under non-disclosure:

Thanks to a recent leak which has revealed some interesting information about the next major Windows Phone version, I can now publicly discuss Windows Phone 8 for the first time.

First, a quick recap:

  • Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango” came out in the second half of last year and was the launch OS for Nokia’s Lumia phones.
  • Windows Phone “Tango” is expected in the second quarter of 2012 and appears to be a minor update focused on low-end handsets.
  • Windows Phone “Apollo” is the subject of the new leaks. Some of the details:
  • Uses the Windows 8 kernel and other OS components, rather than Windows CE
  • Supports multicore processors
  • Supports more form factors and screen resolutions
  • Preserves compatibility with Windows Phone 7 apps
  • Adds BitLocker encryption

I presume this also means that native code development will be supported, as it is for the Windows Runtime (WinRT) in Windows 8.

Date for “Apollo”? The rumour is towards the end of this year, as a close follow-on from Windows 8 itself.

Like many leaks, this one raises as many questions as it answers. While it makes sense that Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 should share the same kernel, it also raises the question of  how they are differentiated. Windows 8, especially on ARM, is designed for small screens and tablets. Windows Phone 8, we now learn, will support more form factors. The implication is that there may be Windows Phone 8 devices that are close in size to Windows 8 devices. Will they run the same apps from the same Marketplace, at least in some cases, in the same way that some iOS apps support both iPhone and iPad?

The Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 era will be simplified in one sense, with a single core operating system across desktop and devices. In another sense though, it ushers in new complexity, with multiple platforms that have subtle or not so subtle differences:

  • Windows 8 desktop side, on laptop and tablet (x86)
  • Windows 8 desktop side, laptop and tablet (ARM) – rumoured to be locked down for Office and perhaps a few other favoured apps
  • Windows 8 Metro side, desktop, laptop and tablet (x86) which should be nearly the same as
  • Windows 8 Metro side, desktop, laptop and tablet (ARM) – runs WinRT
  • Windows Phone 8 – runs WinRT, plus Silverlight compatibility layer

My guess is that Microsoft will push WinRT as the single platform developers should target, but I can see scope for confusion among both developers and users.