The future of Windows Phone after Mango

Last year in September Microsoft released a major update for the Windows Phone, version 7.5 or nicknamed Mango. The update brought us a long list of updates and new features. Next to that several new Windows Phone devices were announced and Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft brought the Lumia 710 and 800 devices to Belgium on February 1st. Up until now the Windows Phone was still quite unknown in Belgium for the general public, but this will probably change with the effort Nokia puts in advertisements. Next to gaining a large portion of the market share, we are also interested in what the future will bring for us, developers.

Even though rumors are still rumors, it seems like we can expect 2 releases for Windows Phone in 2012. First of all there’s “Tango”, expected around mid-2012. This release is aimed at broadening the user base, by lowering the memory requirements to support lower-end (and thus cheaper) devices. These lower requirements will most likely also have effect on the apps we can create, limiting the memory use and resource-intensive tasks (and give more importance to cloud computing). A new SDK should be available around April to develop and test against this release. Other rumors are that Tango will support up to 120 languages (up from 35). With some luck we’ll get some things confirmed later this month at the Mobile World Congress.

And then there is the video of Joe Belfiore to Nokia on Windows Phone 8, code-named Apollo that has been leaked. Windows Phone 8 is seen as part of the Windows 8 family of products and will share core technologies with its desktop- and tablet-based counterparts, including the kernel, multicore processor support, security and of course the Metro-style UI. Some of the experiences will be custom tailored for the smaller screen, including IE 10 Mobile version. It’s expected to hit the market together with Windows 8 by the end of the year.

Other interesting features for Windows Phone 8 for the end customers include a NFC Chip enabling an integrated wallet experience, full micro SD support, camera improvements and custom “lens” apps and a Skype app. To get the most out of our limited data plans, we’ll get “Data Smart” in which the system will use Wi-Fi over cellular where possible, use less bandwidth and provide an app to manage data usage. Business users get complete BitLocker encryption out of the box, private app stores for businesses, a new version of Office mobile going together with the Office 15 wave, System Center integration and much more.

For us developers, there are also a few interesting features like app-to-app communication based on Windows 8 Contracts and native C++ apps built on the Windows 8 kernel (out goes Windows CE), enabling to easily port Windows 8 or even Android/iOS apps to Windows Phone 8. This will certainly fuel the discussion “Is Silverlight dead?” again, but for now Windows Phone 8 should be backward compatible and support all current Mango apps, which could be around 100.000 of them by then.

It’s still early and everything is based on rumors and a leaked video, but Microsoft seems to continue the effort on increasing its market share for Windows Phone, both for individuals and businesses. Which in turn, might also bring new opportunities for us as Microsoft developers.

Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0; code samples licensed under MIT.
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