Ina Fried

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Microsoft’s Phone Efforts Move Into the Spotlight Wednesday

While Monday was a huge day for Microsoft, thanks to the Surface tablet, Wednesday is also shaping up as a pretty important milestone.

The company is set to meet with developers to talk about the future of Windows Phone, a future that will at long last bring its phone, tablet and PC efforts closer together.

Today’s Windows Phone 7 shares a look and feel with Windows 8. But while some of the programming techniques are similar, the two operating systems have been based on different core operating system kernels.

Windows Phone 7, though vastly different from the Windows Mobile it replaces, is based on Windows CE, the software Microsoft once used to take on the Palm Pilot. Windows 8, meanwhile, is based on the Windows NT core that has powered every desktop operating system since Windows XP. With the next version of Windows Phone, code-named Apollo, Microsoft is expected to move the phone over to the NT core.

Microsoft has yet to talk about Apollo, but partners have spoken positively about the move both publicly and privately. Verizon, which has largely eschewed Windows Phone 7, has said it expects to do more work around future versions of the software.

Ordinarily this kind of switch would be a massive jolt to developers, but Microsoft may have fewer challenges than in past operating system transitions. That’s because Redmond never allowed developers to write Windows Phone 7 apps to the kernel. Instead, developers wrote their apps either in Silverlight or XNA — the tools used for the Xbox. That should mean that apps written for Windows Phone 7 can continue to work in Windows Phone 8.

But by moving to an NT kernel, Microsoft should also make it easier for desktop developers to bring their apps to the phone and for new developers to do work that can smoothly operate across all of Microsoft’s different devices.

The next step for Windows Phone is critical. Although the design of Microsoft’s phone software has been well received, the operating system has yet to enjoy the kind of sales traction that Microsoft would like. Indeed, its market share has gone down in the last year.

Microsoft is set to make its case to phone developers at a Phone Summit event in San Francisco. AllThingsD will have live coverage just ahead of the event, which starts at 9 a.m. PT on Wednesday.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald