in recent memory. After unveiling the Surface
tablet, the company revealed a couple of days
later its biggest-ever upgrade to Windows
Phone ? the Windows Phone 8. However, the
latter news left a sour taste in the mouth of
users who bought into Microsoft?s mobile
platform early, as current Windows Phone
users found out they wouldn?t be getting the
Why wouldn?t Microsoft let its most loyal
mobile users in on its latest and greatest
software? The reason is actually very simple:
This isn?t the same Windows Phone operating
system as the one they?ve been using.
Although Windows Phone 8 resembles its
predecessors in both looks and functionality,
everything has changed under the hood.
?The oversimplified way of putting it is that,
before, you had a phone that ran programs;
now you have a computer that can make phone
calls,? says Greg Sullivan, Microsoft?s senior
marketing manager for Windows Phone (shown
above). ?There is a fundamental difference
Windows Phone has been re-coded from the
ground up for Version 8. The original Windows
Phone (Version 7) and all subsequent upgrades
before 8 are actually based on Windows CE,
Microsoft?s earlier mobile operating system.
Windows CE was also the basis for Windows
Mobile, which came before Windows Phone 7.
Windows Phone 8, however, is based on the
same core software as Windows 8 itself (the
Windows NT kernel). While that has many
benefits ? for users, hardware makers,
developers and Microsoft ? it means all those
phones that were designed to run Windows
Phone 7 can?t run the new OS.
All isn?t lost on current Windows Phone users,
however. The most visible upgrade in Windows
Phone 8 ? the super-customizable home
screen ? will come to older Windows Phones
through an upgrade to Windows Phone 7.8,
and Microsoft says it?ll continue to support
the previous Windows Phone OS.
?The sense that we just bought something and
we don?t want to be left behind is what we?re
delivering on,? says Sullivan. ?Nokia is doing a
bunch of works to keep this fresh. They?re
going to continue to invest in the Lumia line
and add new capability and new functionality.?
Was it really impossible to get those previous
phones running Windows Phone 8, though?
Hardware is often adaptable ? the same Intel
chips that power Windows PCs also power
Macs, after all. Couldn?t Microsoft have worked
out a way for those phones to get the latest
Yes, says Sullivan, but the cost would have
been severe, and the benefits would have been
minimal. Much of the functionality that
Windows Phone 8 opens up has to do with
higher resolutions, multi-core processors and
technologies like near-field communication
(NFC) ? technologies current Windows Phones
simply don?t have.
?That has a fair amount to do with it,? Sullivan
says. ?All of the work we would have had to do
to get it on this architecture ? and then
there?s no benefit.?
Windows Phone 8 has much more in common
with Windows 8 and Windows RT than previous
generations of Windows Phone. The similarity
goes beyond just sharing the same software
code (the kernel), as, for instance, OS X and iOS
do. Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 actually
share the same ?core,? as Sullivan puts it,
which means all Windows products will soon
share the same device drivers, file system,
networking stack (with IPv6 compatibility),
media software, and most elements having to
do with security.
?There?s a lot more than just the OS kernel
that?s being shared,? Sullivan explains. ?That?s
one of the benefits of being on this shared
core ? we get to inherit the architecture and
the scale of a very large number of users "