As I recently read in an article, “Windows Phone 7 was a great operating system, but the adoption rates were not superb. Microsoft had to abandon its old Windows Mobile operating system and had to play catch-up with iOS and Android, both of which appeared years earlier on the mobile OS scene. This resulted in a niche market share for Microsoft“.
In the following I’ll try to explain why I believe WP8 will be able to succeed were WP7 failed to deliver, taking also some considerations from the mentioned post and others I fully agree with.
1) With Windows 8, all of Microsoft offerings are standardizing on the Metro look & feel, offering an integrated end-user experience. Metro is a refreshing and intuitive new design language specificatly thought to interact with a touchscreen. When WP7 was released, it was the only platform where Metro was used. Today it has become commonplace and it is used on the desktop, on the server, on tablets, on the phone, on the Xbox and on the web. Most of the applications are (or will be) redesigned in a Metro style on every Windows platform, expecially when a touchscreen interacion is required. Moreover the Metro design is now evolved on the bases of the user inputs and offers new features (ex. multisize live tiles, allowing the users to prioritize their personal start screen also manipulating each tile dimension). I found a good marketing decision to sell the Windows 8 update at a budget prize, expecially for recently buyed PCs (only 14€ and 54€ for older ones). People must start to use and then appreciate the Metro style interface, even though it gives the best feel when used with a touchscreen (as it happens in some new PCs, tablets and phones). At a first look it seems to be dreary (mainly monochromatic, with no shadows) and only using it you can discover the high usability of a Metro UI. Now also for Windows 8 you can download and install/update applications via an online store as it happens for Windows Phone and also this helps to offer an integrated end-user experience.
2) The kernel of WP8 is completely different and based on a NT instead of the CE kernel. It is the same kernel of desktop and tablet: the same Windows RT APIs can be used, making easier for developers to build applications targeting all platforms. From now on all new PCs are shipped with Windows 8 installed making this S.O. an important platform for any serious App developer: Windows Phone 8 will benefit from this. It supports multi-core CPUs and HD resolutions.
3) Multitasking. Instead of the card-based multitasking utilized in WP7, WP8 includes true background multitasking. Multitasking is still invoked by pressing the “Back” key available on all Windows Phone devices.
4) Internet Explorer 10 is the default browser in Windows Phone 8 and carries over key improvements also found in the desktop version.
5) The availability of C++ and DirectX on WP8 unlocks the existing enormous games catalogue available for Windows and powered by DirectX that can be easy ported to phones. This is a great opportunity for WP8 because the type of applications that matter the most are games and they are the best-selling applications for all (mobile) platforms.
6) It overcome some limitation (for the user point of view) of Windows Phone 7: it support external microSD and it allows to share data via Bluetooth or NFC. For example, with NFC sharing, you can tap your phone on another NFC-capable device (like a tablet or your friend’s phone) to share things like photos, contacts, songs and webpages. NFC allows also to make payments in stores and outlets that support it by simply tapping the phone to a device. While NFC is still in its infancy for mobile payments, Windows Phone 8 has been made future-proofed for when this technology finally does go mainstream.
7) Even more integration with cloud services, allowing to sync everything (ex. Office docs, photo, video) in a very easy way. Office in Windows Phone 8 has full integration with Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange and SkyDrive and allows you to access your documents wherever you go. For example you can start a Word document or an Excel spreadsheet on your computer, then sync it to SkyDrive as you head out the door.: then you can write or edit some more on your phone with Office Mobile. SkyDrive makes easy to share docs and edit them with another person, too. SkyDrive gives you 7 GB of free storage and you have the complete control on it.
Windows Phone 8 finally gets also a cloud-based backup feature which supports also settings and not only text messages, photos and videos (that were taken with the device). Therefore it has the ability not only to automatically upload photos and video to SkyDrive, sync SMS and MMS messages to Hotmail or Outlook.com, but also sync settings such as themes, accounts and Internet Explorer favorites: App lists and individual app settings will also be synced as part of a backup routine.
8) Enterprises will finally be able to deploy their own internal apps to devices without having to go through Microsoft’s online store, which is being renamed to Windows Store to match Windows 8. LOB (line-of-business) apps [like accounting, supply chain management and resource planning] are under your control: you can develop, package, sign, distribute and maintain them end-to-end. Robust security helps to protect business information and guard against malware. Moreover Rich phone management capabilities make it easy to integrate Windows Phone into a Windows infrastructure.
9) Kid’s Corner: it grants your little ones access only to the apps, games, videos and music you choose for them, so you can relax and let them play. They can open Kid’s Corner on their own, but your Start screen, apps and info are protected by a password you set. Separate from Kid’s Corner, Windows Phones still let parents implement parental controls for things like Xbox games. There is no phone with as much Xbox integration and rich DirectX support.
10) New feature called Data Sense for WP8. Data Sense is a set of technologies that helps customers on metered mobile broadband connections save bandwidth so they can use their phone more. This includes IE 10 bandwidth compression, integration with Wi-Fi to help find nearby hotspots and automatically connect, adjusting network settings as you approach your data plan limit in each billing month, and a tile- and app-based UI that shows where you are within your monthly limit and how much data each app is using. Data Sense also provides pop-up notifications and Live Tile updates when you’re getting close to the limit. Data Sense though is carrier-supported and integrated, so it can work depending on the provider.
11) Integrated Skype Calling. Like Windows 8, once you sign in to Skype on your phone, your Skype contacts are automatically added to your Windows Phone, making it possible to call the people who matter to you via Skype right from the People Hub. Skype for Windows Phone 8 enables you to receive chats and notifications for voice and video calls even though you’ve navigated away to another app or have your phone on lock, so you can stay connected with your contacts whatever you’re doing: this all happens with limited battery drain. For the first time, incoming Skype calls arrive using the familiar incoming call screen from Windows Phone. They have also included useful new features such as call waiting, so switching between a Skype call and a regular mobile call is fast and easy. Any VoIP or video chat app can integrate VoIP and video chat also into the phone dialer and people hub.
12) Many improvements to social abilities, like the inclusion of “Rooms”. Taking some of the ideas from Windows Phone 7’s Groups feature and expanding it out, the new feature allows for powerful social interaction with a selection of your contacts. Rooms have five areas: members, chat, photos, calendar and notes. Under the members section, you can single-tap invite your contacts to your new Room. You can name the room and even add all paper to it to give it some flare. The Chat area is built off of Microsoft Messenger and allows users to instant message each other. Photos and Notes allow you to share those items, including videos while Calendar is just that, a center for sharing appointments. Finally, you can pin that Room to your Start screen where the Live Tile will keep you posted on any updates via Notifications. You can invite people to a room, then share notes and to-do lists, a calendar, photos and group chat.
13) Microsoft Wallet. You can use your phone’s Wallet to keep your reward cards, coupons, credit cards, local deals and memberships in one convenient, password-protected place. Linked apps can keep your Wallet up-to-date with card balances and other info, too. One neat feature of Wallet was how it automatically imported our Microsoft Account information including your stored payment options (included PayPal and a Visa card).
14) Voice comands and Voice-to-Text. Get things done using only your voice: make a call, launch an app, send a text, take a note, find something online and lots more. Voice command now can be included in your application too. Moreover, the Word Flow Keyboard learns to predict the next word in your sentence for high-speed typing.
15) Nokia Maps, which is based on Navteq, replaces Bing Maps as the standard mapping application for all devices running WP8, as opposed to only Nokia devices in WP7. All devices also have access to Nokia Drive, which includes turn-by-turn directions for navigation and the ability to save maps for offline use.
16) The design of some new devices are very nice looking (so many colours and shapes) and making it great devices to own. Moreover some special features were added to some of them: for example Nokia Lumia 920 support also wireless charging, it has a PureView Camera that allows blur-free photos and image optical (not digital) stabilization also for best mobile video, a PureMotion HD+ touchscreen display very bright and fast, sensitive enough to respond to your fingertips even when they’re covered up.
17) A complete environment for developers. The Windows Phone 8 SDK gives you XAML, a .Net experience and the power of WinRT on Visual Studio with a real emulator and real testing and profiling tools.
I’ll update that list in the future if needed!!! 😉
Note that (unfortunatly) Windows Phone 8 does not support FM Radio anymore: so if an app calls the FM radio APIs, it has to detect the OS version and if the device is WP8 that part of code must be disabled. Even though UK govt. was planning to cease analogue FM radio transmissions in 2015, up to now many people uses FM radio expecially if data traffic is payed per use or the bandwith in some places is not good. I hope Microsoft will support this feature again in next WP8 devices (the Nokia hardware (WCN3660) has support for FM transceiver but FM has been switched off).