Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 8, promising "amazing games" and a host of new features for the next generation of its mobile operating system.
The company showed off WP8 at a developer and press event in San Francisco yesterday, and Joe Belfiore, Windows Phone product manager, has since posted the details on the Windows Phone blog.
WP8 is based on the technology core of Windows Phone 8, meaning smartphones and PCs will share networking, security, media and a file system. This, Belfiore says, "translates into better performance, more features, and new opportunities for app developers and hardware makers to innovate faster.
"Basing Windows Phone 8 on the Windows core will unleash a new wave of amazing apps and especially games."
Use of the Windows core means support for multicore processors, and devices will support 1280x768 and 1280x720 resolutions as well as MicroSD storage. Also included is support for Near Field Communication (NFC) allowing for easy sharing of documents and media with nearby devices, Internet Explorer 10, an improved digital wallet and a Nokia mapping service.
Microsoft's pitch to developers includes multitasking enhancements, and native code support for C and C++, streamlining cross-platform development and giving access to DirectX and middleware from the likes of Havok and Autodesk. At last, WP8 will introduce support for in-app purchases.
The system's start screen has been redesigned and will be fully customisable, a feature that will be rolled out to Windows Phone 7.5 devices in an update, dubbed Windows Phone 7.8. The other features, however, will only be available on new hardware, with the first WP8 handsets manufactured by Huawei, Samsung, HTC and, of course, Nokia.
So, is Microsoft making progress, or simply playing catch-up? While the close relationship with Windows is a step forward and access to DirectX and well-known middleware is intruiging, many of the new features are already available on other mobile operating systems.
The few games Belfiore mentions in his post do little to dispel the notion that Microsoft is doing more than keeping up with the Joneses, either. Gameloft is developing WP8 versions of Asphalt 7: Heat and NOVA 3; Nokia is working on bringing Zynga's Words With Friends and Draw Something to the platform. If WP8 is to succeed as a gaming platform it needs developers on board; how many will take a risk on a platform struggling to gain traction in a market dominated by iOS and Android is another matter entirely.