Microsoft has finally and officially removed the wraps from the OS formerly known as Apollo. It's now just Windows Phone 8 and, at their "sneak peek" event we're learning a good bit about that OS, and some of the great new hardware support that it offers. But, there's one thing we want to make clear right away: if you're currently holding a Windows Phone device you won't be getting a taste of this action. Well, not unless you buy a new phone, that is. That back and forth about upgrade paths has been proven to be incorrect, as the hardware requirements for WP8 preclude its running on any current WP device -- even that hot blue Lumia 900 you got for a steal.
Windows Phone 8 Start screen
And what are those hardware requirements? As detailed here, multi-core processors (up to 64) are now allowable, displays up to WXGA (1280 x 768) and external storage on SD. This better, faster hardware will enable new, faster games and other demanding apps which, for the first time, can be written in native code. (Well, it's C/C++, which at least lets developers get out of CLR land.) All this will run on a kernel shared with Windows 8 and Windows RT. In other words: yes, Microsoft has managed to get one platform running on desktops, laptops, tablets and phones, the idea being that apps can be more easily ported from one to the next, promising "games we've never seen before" running on your phones.
Windows Phone 8 NFC demo
There's also a new wallet functionality thanks to the NFC support, as detailed here, but reliant on an augmented SIM, not hardware on the phone itself. This means carriers won't have to remove apps (as we've seen with Google Wallet in the past) but they can block support altogether. Nokia maps is now built into the OS, including offline map support.
This is a big step forward on many levels, but Microsoft is naturally sticking to its roots, promising enterprise-ready security and support, enabling admins to deploy and restrict apps on corporate-provided phones and manage them remotely. There's also encryption and secure booting integrated.
Windows Phone 8