the cat is out of the bag (wp8 released)

So it finally happened, Microsoft announced Windows Phone 8 and detailed all of its features. The keynote itself was pretty cool with Joe Belfiore, Steve Ballmer and even Jessica Alba on stage. And as special bonus guests Joe brought his children on stage to show off the new Kids corner feature.

Kids corner is like a second user being logged on on your phone with you being the administrator, determining what applications can be seen and started by the second user, usually being your kid. A darn cool feature that is! Once configured it’s as easy as swiping to the left when on your lockscreen to switch to the second session. It’s so easy and intuitive that I really believe that a 2-year old can figure it out. (I've seen 2-year olds navigating Windows like a pro…). Other features include rooms, virtual houses where you can keep track of, for example, your family. See all their tweets, calendars, locations, chat with them, etc. and that includes people using iphones and Android devices! Also a cool, albeit a bit of a gimmick, is that apps can now change your lockscreen. For example, the Bing app can set the daily Bing image as lockscreen image, or the facebook app switches between your facebook pictures as lockscreen image.

For people with a limited dataplan comes DataSense, this is a build in feature that will keep an eye on your data usage, that also should be quite a bit lower then on another device because of the compression techniques used in the mobile operating system, DataSense will adjust the way WP8 behaves when you’re nearing your datalimit, should save some pennies to quite a lot of people.

Off course they talked about apps as well, the Windows Phone ecosystem now has over 120.000 apps (unofficial sources talk about 125.000) with hundreds of new ones being added each day. I believe this number will rise once developers get hacking with the WP8 SDK but all in all a great number! Also 46 of the world’s 50 most popular apps are now available on WP8. The fact that Windows Phone now support the Unity game engine makes it really easy for a bunch of popular games to be released on Microsoft’s platform. Devs win because an extra platform is an extra form of earnings, Microsoft wins because more apps for their system and consumers win because they can waste more time with games. But the biggest eye-catcher in the apps area was Skype. An all new version of the app that allows messages and calls to come in even when the app is not running. And most importantly, it does not run code in the background so the app won’t drain your battery like a certain other messaging app (yes I’m looking at you What’s app…).

Other new features, that amazingly enough haven’t been discussed in the keynote, include dual and quad core support, NFC, SD card support, brand new kernel (now shared with the Windows 8 OS), multi-tasking has been expanded for up to eight apps instead of five, SkyDrive can be used to back up texts, apps, settings, pictures, … For the business market there’s the intune, SCCM and other management tools support. There’s also the possibility to completely encrypt the device, remote wipe it when stolen. The devices have UEFI with secure boot, so no tempering with the bootloader is allowed.

And for us developers: the Windows Phone 8 SDK will be available today during the Build keynote! A few more hours to go and we can get cracking at Windows Phone hacking in Visual Studio 2012! Just remember, to use the emulator you’ll need a machine that runs (and supports) Hyper-V. Also, Windows Phone now supports native code!

As for release dates for the devices, the HTC 8X, 8S and the Samsung Ativ S will be in stores this weekend, the Nokia devices will be available end of the month.

For all the juicy details, here’s an 18-minute video of Joe walking through the operating system:

Meet Windows Phone 8

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