Microsoft: we won’t need to rip up Windows Phone again

Microsoft won’t need to perform another major overhaul of Windows Phone for the “foreseeable future”, a company executive told PC Pro.

Microsoft: we won't need to rip up Windows Phone again

The company last week unveiled Windows Phone 8, moving the mobile OS to the same NT kernel as Windows itself.

It was the second major refresh of Microsoft’s mobile OS in two years, following the November 2010 launch of Windows Phone 7, and once again left customers with existing Windows Phone handsets with no upgrade path to the new operating system. Microsoft will release Windows Phone 7.8 to provide existing users with many of the features included in Windows Phone 8, including the revamped Start screen.


Nokia’s been badly burned by Windows Phone 8

Microsoft’s senior marketing manager, Greg Sullivan, told PC Pro that Windows Phone is unlikely to see such major upheaval again for some time. “It [Windows Phone 8] is a generational shift, something that’s not a frequent occurrence, and something we don’t take lightly,” he said.

“It’s not foreseeable that we’ll need to do this again,” Sullivan added.

Sullivan said that Microsoft had long planned to shift Windows Phone to the same kernel as Windows itself, but the pieces weren’t in place to do so at the time the company launched Windows Phone 7 in 2010. “We’ve known for some time that the Windows core would ultimately be brought to the phone,” he said. “I think Steve Ballmer said about ten years ago that the NT kernel would run on phones.”

The moment arrived, however, when the Windows kernel was ported to the ARM architecture ahead of the release of Windows RT, allowing Microsoft to have everything from the phone, to tablets, PCs, Xbox consoles and servers, running on the same kernel.

No “broken apps”

Sullivan said the move from Windows Phone 7 to 8 was handled “in such a way that we didn’t break any apps”.

Yet, while it will be possible for developers to target both Windows Phone 8 and 7 devices with a single binary, there are APIs and features available to developers that mean apps coded for Phone 8 won’t necessarily work on handsets running the older OS. Any apps taking advantage of multicore processing or new APIs for VoIP or speech recognition, for example, will not be backwards compatible.

Sullivan refused to be drawn on what proportion of apps coded for Windows Phone 8 he expected to be backwards compatible with Windows Phone 7 handsets. “I think you’ll see both: ISVs exploiting the new [Windows Phone 8] capabilities and others targeting broad compatibility,” he said.

He also refused to be drawn on whether Windows 7.8 would be the last OS update for existing Windows Phone handset owners, although he said that partners such as Nokia would continue to deliver firmware and application updates to customers.

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