Thanks to a Pocketnow leak, we've learned a lot this week about Windows Phone 8, the coming major update to Microsoft's exciting and innovative mobile platform. But if you read between the lines a bit, you'll discover that this week's revelations also tell us some very interesting things about Windows 8 as well.
Plus we can always speculate a bit. It's fun. :)
Digital media apps
The Pocketnow report, which is based on an internal video starring Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, notes that "multimedia [will be an] area of heavy overlap" between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 and that Microsoft will "scrap the desktop Zune client in favor of a dedicated companion application."
This is perhaps the most interesting detail about Windows 8 in the entire report and it answers two burning questions about Microsoft's next operating system: Will Microsoft somehow integrate Zune with its existing digital media playback solutions (Windows Media Player/Media Center)? And which of the existing media playback solutions will make their way to Windows 8?
We already know Windows Media Center will be in Windows 8, since Steven Sinofsky said so last fall. (We don't know what form it will take; i.e. whether it will be improved or changed dramatically or simply a port/evolution of the existing application, though. Will it be a Metro app? Or the same old Explorer application?)
Now we know that Zune will not be included in Windows 8 and will likely not be updated in any major fashion, aside from offering a way for legacy Windows versions (Windows 7 and older) to sync with Windows Phone and Zune devices.
We know from Microsoft's demos at BUILD that Windows 8 will include separate Metro-style apps for Music and Videos that look and work an awful lot like those in Windows Phone. Since Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share so many key components--including those related to multimedia--I think it's fair to say that Windows 8 will in fact include the exact same digital media playback experiences that are offered in Windows Phone 8, or even supersets of those.
This means we'll see the equivalent of WP 8's Music experience in Windows 8 too. And since the Pocketnow report says that "one's music collection [will be] available on a newly-purchased Windows Phone, without the need for a PC sync," thanks to SkyDrive integration, this Music experience will sync with SkyDrive too. (Does this suggest the death of Zune Pass? Not necessarily. But it does prove Microsoft is going to let people store their music collections in the cloud and then access that music from any Windows 8/WP 8-based device.)
Since we do know that Windows 8 users are getting this integration, it further makes sense that the Metro-style video playback functionality in Windows 8 will be much like that in, if not identical to, Windows Phone. Will there also be video sync capabilities via SkyDrive? That we don't know.
Regardless, SkyDrive is about to get a lot more interesting.
Will BitLocker always be enabled in Windows 8?
The BitLocker full-disk encryption scheme debuted in Windows Server, was ported to desktop versions of Windows, and will now make an appearance in Windows Phone 8 too. But why would BitLocker only be enabled by default in the phone version of Windows 8? Won't it be likewise enabled by default in the desktop/laptop versions of the OS too? After all, these systems are more susceptible to attack, given their legacy desktop capabilities.
Windows Phone 8 will include a Skype app and integration into the obvious phone experiences. Why wouldn't Windows 8 also offer this same integration? Most people use Skype on PCs today, after all.
Yes, Windows 8 could run Windows Phone 8 apps
Since Windows Phone 8 runs on ARM chipsets and is based on the Windows 8 kernel and other core components, it's a fair assumption that ARM-based versions of Windows 8 could run Windows Phone 8 (and 7.5+) apps. That doesn't mean it will. Just that it is absolutely possible.
Is it possible that Intel-based versions of Windows 8 could also run Windows Phone 8 apps? Yes, through emulation or virtualization, absolutely. Will it happen? That depends on whether ARM versions of Windows 8 are allowed to do so. If so, yes, absolutely: After all, Windows 8 is all about no compromises.
Nokia's rumored Windows 8 tablet
Handset maker Nokia is widely rumored to be working on a Windows 8-based tablet, and while I have no insider information about that possibility, the close ties between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, and Nokia's unique partnership position in which it is deeply involved in Windows Phone development, makes this more plausible. I would be very surprised indeed if Nokia were not working on a Windows 8 tablet.
Wireless carriers will sell Windows 8 tablets
When netbooks were all the rage a few years back, wireless carriers would sell them cheaply or at no cost when bundled with a two year cellular data plan. Since both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will include the DataSmart cellular data capability, it's fair to assume that wireless carriers will soon be selling subsidized Windows 8 tablets and slates alongside iPads and Android tablets, and with similar data plans. These Windows 8 tablets will be more cost effective, however, because of DataPlan's efficiencies.
What if Windows Phone 8 were Windows 8 for tablets?
Finally, here's a crazy one, but I'm just throwing it out there.
For the past couple of years, many people, including myself, have called on Microsoft to use the Windows Phone OS on tablet devices.
Likewise, for the past year or so, there's been a lot of confusion over whether ARM-based Windows 8 tablets were "real" Windows PCs that would include the legacy desktop.
What if Windows Phone 8 were in fact the version of Windows 8 that Microsoft will provide to ARM-based tablets?
And if not, what if Windows Phone 8 were instead the basis for a Windows 8 Tablet edition for ARM devices, an OS that functionally sits between WP8 and the Intel-based Windows 8 versions?
You have to admit, it kind of makes sense. Kind of.
That's what I've come up with. Are there any other Windows 8 hints I've missed? Let me know!