With the Windows 8 release just around the corner, there has been a lot of talk about what we can expect from Microsoft's latest desktop operating system. However, Microsoft is also developing an ARM edition of Windows 8 that will be used on consumer electronic devices, such as tablets and cell phones. I thought it might be fun to list some of my predictions for the next Windows Phone release.
1: It will run Metro apps only
Metro apps are a new type of application that will run only on Windows 8. X86/X64 editions of Windows 8 can run legacy applications through something called Desktop Mode. Microsoft has confirmed that Desktop Mode will exist in ARM editions but says that the only applications supported will be Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and Microsoft Office.
My prediction is that Windows Phone 8 will not include Desktop Mode at all. I think that Microsoft will offer Metro versions of Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office instead.
2: There will be many throwbacks to Windows Phone 7
The more I learn about Windows 8, the more I can't help but get the impression that Windows Phone 7's operating system was an experiment in the Windows 8 development cycle. So I think we'll see a lot of throwbacks to Windows Phone 7. For example, I think that Windows Phone 8 will make even more extensive use of live tiles, but that the Start screen will be more customizable than it is on Windows Phone 7.
3: You'll be able to join the phones to a domain
Windows Phone devices running Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 could be joined to a domain, but Microsoft removed this functionality in Windows Phone 7. As much as I love my Windows Phone 7 device, there are a few areas in which it's lacking. I think Microsoft will try to address these shortcomings in Windows Phone 8 by offering the ability to join the phone to a domain and various other enterprise-related functions.
4: There will be a consumer and a pro edition
Although there is no history of this (at least not with Windows Mobile), I am going to go out on a limb and predict that Microsoft will offer a consumer and a pro version of Windows Phone 8. I expect the consumer version to be heavily oriented toward social networking and gaming, while the pro version will likely offer things like group policy support and the ability to be managed via System Center products.
5: It will be time to say goodbye to Zune
One of the key features in Windows Phone 7 is that devices have Zune HD built in. From what I have seen so far in some of the Windows 8 preview builds, it appears that Microsoft might be dropping the Zune label. I expect Windows Phone 8 to play music and videos, and I expect it to use a Zune-like interface, but I doubt that Microsoft will refer to the interface as Zune.
6: It will offer a more full-featured version of Microsoft Office
Windows Mobile devices have always included mobile versions of Microsoft Office, but even the version included with Windows Phone 7 lacks much of the functionality found in the full version. My guess is that it's only a matter of time before Microsoft releases a Metro version of Office, and I will be surprised if Office Metro isn't included on at least the pro version of Windows Phone 8.
7: There will be better hardware
Windows Phone 7 devices use decent hardware, but I expect Windows Phone 8 devices to run on even better hardware. At a minimum, I expect to see phones with multicore processors. I also think that the phones will offer something that was sorely missing from Windows Phone 7 devices -- SD card support.
8: More accessories will be available
One of my biggest gripes when Windows Phone 7 was released was that even though the devices included a built-in Zune HD, Zune HD accessories are not compatible with the phones. In fact, there aren't many accessories you can buy for Windows Phone 7 at all.
Apple has made a fortune licensing companies to make accessories for the iPhone. I think Microsoft will probably follow suit with Windows Phone 8 and try to flood the market will cool hardware accessories.
9: There will be a dashboard-like Start screen
Windows Phone 7's Start screen consists of a series of live tiles. For example, my phone has tiles that tell me how many email messages are unread, how many calls I have missed, and what the stock market is doing.
Live tiles are a good idea, but in Windows Phone 7 they're a bit too ridged. I think that in Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will make the live tiles much more customizable. In fact, I think that the phone's Start screen will resemble a dashboard, providing all the most relevant information at a glance.
10: SkyDrive integration will be tighter
Windows Phone 7 offers SkyDrive integration, but SkyDrive is primarily used as a place to store Office documents. I think that in Windows Phone 8, SkyDrive will be accessible throughout the operating system and will be treated as all-purpose storage.
On the money?
Do you think these predictions are likely to come true? What do you expect to see in Windows Phone 8?
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.