Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Windows Phone 8 is a Good Thing

HTC's soon to be obsolete HD7. But it has had a good run. At almost two years old, it can still slug it out toe-to-toe with the best Windows Phone 7.5 devices.

Many articles have been written the past few days lamenting Microsoft dropping support for all Windows Phone 7.5 devices with the upcoming Windows Phone 8 operating system. Microsoft may have lacked a bit of foresight with Windows Phone 7 creating an operating system on the Windows CE kernel which resulted in an operating system with limited hardware support. The result was after launching some pretty impressive phones late in 2010, the next generation of Windows Phone handsets in 2011 and the first half of 2012, are really just minor upgrades of the original Windows Phone 7 devices. 

Microsoft made a mistake. It happens. So now you have Windows Phone 8, built on the NT kernel. Windows Phone 8 will be able to run on the latest hardware the manufacturers can offer, and can continue to add more features taking advantage of the faster hardware.

But Windows Phone 8 is actually a good thing even for current Windows Phone handset owners. If you bought a HTC HD7, HTC Mozart, HTC Thropy, Samsung Focus or Samsung Focus flash in 2010 or 2011, are you really looking forward to your next Windows Phone having a single core processor and a WVGA (480 x 800) display.

Buyers of newer devices like the HTC Titan series, HTC Radar, Samsung Focus 2 or the Nokia Lumia devices might feel a bit different for now. Having phone become obsolete in less than a year will not make anyone happy. But even those owners would not want to upgrade to a single core WVGA device in 2014. 

The current Windows Phone 7.5 devices won't stop running because Windows Phone 8 is released. You still have access to the 100,000 apps in the Windows Marketplace. The will be apps that will not run on current devices sooner or later, as apps are developed specifically for Windows Phone 8 or are designed with higher minimum hardware requirements. 

This is not all that different from the Android 2.3 to Android 4.0 transition. Maybe Android phones sold in the market still run Android 2.3. Android 4.0 requires at least 512 MB of RAM. Some phones do not have this much RAM.

There is one caveat though. There are plenty of Android 2.3.6 phones already in the wild, and phones on this version of Android are still being manufactured and sold. Android developers know this and will continue to support Android 2.3.6 compatibility for the next two years or so. Android 2.3.6 supports multi-core processing and multitasking so developers will not be severely constrained in what they can build while maintaining backwards compatibility. 

If the Windows Phone 8 launch results in a slow adoption of the new platform than you can expect developers to continue to support Windows Phone 7.5 (later 7.8) devices and make a slow transition to Windows Phone 8. 

On the other hand, if Windows Phone 8 is a stellar success, there are not all that many Windows Phone 7.5 devices in the wild right now. Windows Phone app developers in order to maintain app compatibility with Windows Phone 7.5 have to forego multi-processor support, or the ability to run in the background, or come out with two versions. With the small number of Windows Phone 7.5 devices in the market, it might not be worth the effort. A successful Windows Phone 8 launch could see more phones being sold in one month, than Windows Phone 7 has seen in its entire life. If this happens, the  efforts at making new apps, backward compatible to Windows Phone 7.5 devices could end rather quickly.

So Windows Phone 8 is a good thing. But Windows Phone 8 is also a very good reason not to buy a Windows Phone 7.5 device now.

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