Microsoft reaffirms app compatibility with Windows Phone 8, hints at Silverlight death

The question of whether or not today's Windows Phone apps will be able to work on the next "major version" of Windows Phone aka 'Apollo' or Windows Phone 8 was never a major concern for us as we just assumed they would work. We even saw a job description which said as much back in February.

Still for some developers there were lingering questions about Windows Phone 8 would have the same core as Windows Phone 7.x. While details are still very sparse to that former aspect, tonight on the Windows Phone developer blog, Microsoft's Larry Lieberman reaffirmed that indeed, today's app will work just fine on Windows Phone 8:

"With regard to existing applications: today’s Windows Phone applications and games will run on the next major version of Windows Phone. Driving application compatibility is a function of Microsoft’s commitment to its developers. Regardless of what we release in terms of new developer features and functionality, we have made a large investment in protecting your existing investments."

That is certainly good news and should allay some fears for devs. But perhaps what is even more interesting is we're getting the first hints that Silverlight may be de-emphasized for the next generation of Windows Phone:

"We’ve also heard some developers express concern about the long term future of Silverlight for Windows Phone. Please don’t panic; XAML and C#/VB.NET development in Windows 8 can be viewed as a direct evolution from today’s Silverlight. All of your managed programming skills are transferrable to building applications for Windows 8, and in many cases, much of your code will be transferrable as well."

To our ears, that doesn't sound like Silverlight will be a major part of Apollo (though it will be compatible) and from what we've heard from devs, that's not a bad thing at all. A more interesting reading is that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will be based off the same bits, especially when Lieberman notes that "...targeting a tablet vs. a phone, you do of course, need to design user experiences that are appropriately tailored to each device."

There's certainly a lot of reading in between the lines in that post and makes some interesting discussion, so fire away in comments.

Read more at the Windows Phone Developer Blog. Windows Phone 8 concept image by PocketHacks

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • If this-gen apps will work on Apollo, then isn't that affirming that WP8 can (will) run on this-gen devices?
  • Well, that's like saying WP7 can run on teh HD2 ergo Windows Mobile phones. Technically, true but will it happen?  WP8 may be such a high end beast that MS only wants new hardware. But yeah, WP8 should be able trun on current least current "Mango" phones.
  • Windows Phone 8 may run on current devices just enough that apps can run, but I do not expect the same experience as a phone released this fall. The big problem is the amount of RAM; 512MB means that there won't be as many apps tombstoned for quick return, since the requirement for Windows 8 is 1GB. 
  • I thought Microsoft confirmed that all current gen phones would get WP8?
  • They can't promise that because wireless carriers and hardware OEMs might not be on board for that.
    If Samsung, Dell, LG don't want to upgrade their WP7 drivers and firmware for Windows Phone 8 (and why should they?) Microsoft can't force them to. Also if the carriers don't see any reason to continue updating fully functioning 2 year old hardware then there's not a lot Microsoft can do. Microsoft doesn't have any leverage over the carriers at all.
  • Not necessarily.  This could be done with compatibility shims, emulation, or other tricks that would allow WP8 to be backwards compatible to WP7 apps without necessarily being backwarsd compatile to WP7 devices.  For example, the Xbox 360 could play (some) Xbox 1 games, but that absolutely does not imply that the Xbox 360 software could run on Xbox 1 hardware.  In that case backwards compatibility was done through virtualization/emulation due to different underlying architecture (x86 + nVidia GPU in Xbox 1, PPC + AMD GPU in Xbox 360).  WP8/Apollo devices will almost certainly still be ARM-based hardware so virtualization/emulation tricks will probably be less necessary, but the concept is still the same.
  • Im so paranoid. I've ordered my Lumia and it will arrive tomorrow. But in the back of my mind, I keep thinking what if this thing doesn't get WP8. Im also leaving Sprint for at&t and I keep wondering if Sprint will release a Nokia phone this Fall/Winter that runs WP8 out the box. And by then if I want to switch back to Sprint, they may not even have unlimited web any longer. Grrrrrr!
  • I feel ya, I'm trying to wait it out till more info comes, but with bits n pieces coming out platform wise I like where its heading: marketing/apps etc
  • I'm in the same boat (left Sprint for the Lumia 900) so I'll tell you why I'm not concerned:
    1st of all Nokia is fully onboard with Windows Phone and they're not going to leave their customers high and dry after just a few months. I just don't see it happening like that. It seems unlikely to me.
    2nd of all even if in a worst case scenario there is no WP8 update and Sprint gets an awesome Windows Phone in the Winter you can cancel your AT&T contract for around $250 and get the Sprint phone subsidized for very cheap. Not the end of the world. Oh and even if you stayed with Sprint and they dropped unlimited data you would be forced to change your plan to get the new phone. They have done this to me many times over the past few years, they force you to break your old contract plan in order to get the newest phones. The only way to stay on unlimited data would be to keep your old phone forever.
    3rd of all you may not like Windows Phone 8. We have no idea what Windows Phone 8 is. It could be something significantly different than WP7.5 and there may be aspects about it that don't fit your preferences.
  • But what if Nokia is 'on board' with rolling out the update, but AT&T isn't?  Seems that update pushes by Nokia in the UK and other European countries are somewhat seemless, but with AT&T it seems like there is always some type of delay.
    Perhaps Apollo won't be blocked by AT&T if they forego Tango?  Or perhaps only the Lumia devices will get the Apollo update now that it has hero status...
    Hopefully, all carriers and oems will be amenable to Apollo for both 1st and 2nd gen devices.
  • I think you are overreacting - Mango is available for every WP7 phone, and I don't see why suddenly the same cannot be done for Apollo.
  • I'm very skeptical that Apollo will come to current Windows Phones. Why? Apollo will be running on the Windows 8 on ARM kernel (MinWin) with multi-CPU support while Mango is running on Windows Compact Embedded 6. The Silverlight runtime can be the same for every platform but the core system can not. Another reason could be to avoid fragmentation: WP8 devices may be all dual-core phones, you wouldn't get the same performance on the Mango devices. My two cents: Microsoft may release a feature update to Windows Phone 7, but not the real Apollo OS. WP7 will stay for cheap devices while WP8 will be on high-end devices only with many new core functionality that we have seen in Windows 8 like "app contracts", picture passwords and many more. In the Windows 8 Consumer Preview keynote, there was an interesting line from Steven Sinofsky: he say something like "from phones to tablets to high-end workstations..." It is obvious that WP8 will share a lot with Windows 8 on ARM. Even apps (the Snapped view in Windows 8 feels much like an app running on a phone).
    I doubt that will ever happen, goes against the philosophy of one os for everything if they are maintaining two versions. WP8 will be able to run on single core as well as dual, quad etc it wont be simply for high end devices. 
    Nokia would never have got on board if that were the case as they want to push WP down the price points as quickly as possible. That wont happen if WP8 can only run on highend hardware.
  • You can also buy the wp8 sim unlockt
  • Sounds right to me. But the question is will the current devices run the windows 8 based apps :-). My guess is they will but have to wonder if they will be up to doing it very well.
  • This will not be an issue if all current phones get an upgrade to 8.
  • I don't know seems that performance will be the biggest issue in that case. So far developers have only been able to write Windows 8 apps on fairly fast intel based chipsets. A far cry from the CPU/GPU in the current Windows 7 devices.
    Plus it is hard for developers to target the low end of the spectrum when creating applications.. I mean, that is no fun at all.
  • I would look to the Tango update as a model of what you can expect. Some "Apollo" apps will just say they require more than 512MB of RAM. Like the 256MB limit for Tango I imagine this will affect a very small number of apps. I can't see anything other than high end games and graphically intensive apps requiring more than 512MB of RAM.
    Also I would expect that there may be a few advanced features of Windows Phone 8 that are not possible on older hardware; again same as with Tango phones.
  • Remember when the iPhone 4 came out and it turned out that even on contract users would be give subsidies?
    Don't stress yourself out, NOK and MSFT understand the necessity to build customers and screwing them over with an "old" device is probably something they have thought through
  • The advancing of upgrade eligibility for existing subscribers was because AT&T knew it would be losing exclusivity in a few months. They wanted to lock in as many of those expensive contract smartphone users that the iPhone had brought them as they could before people had options.
  • Silverlight is being phased out. That's been MS's plan for a while now. 5 is the last version. All metro apps on tablet, PC, phone, and whatever other device comes out are going to run on the WinRT framework. Silverlight will still remain as part of the platform but just there for existing apps. Also, I have a feeling that they will upgrade the lumia 9's to Apollo. Given the short time frame from now until release. I don't think they would be doing all of this work for Tango if they planned on abandoning existing phones. I'm going to pick my lumia up tomorrow and I have no reservation about Apollo. very excited to get it! :)
  • I look at the Silverlight phase-out a different way: as the long awaited unification of WPF and Silverlight. Silverlight never took off the way Microsoft wanted, and unfortunately that Windows 8 demo video caused techmedia to further damage the brand with "Windows 8 metro will be programmed only with HTML5+CSS3+JS," even going so far as to say that all of .NET was going away. Completely out of control, especially considering the information presented at //build completely refuted that, instead showing HTML5+CSS3+JS as an alternative, not a replacement.
  • Well, that's great, but what about the other way around?
    Will WP8 apps, run on WP Mango Lumia 900?
    Or better, will the AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 get WP8 this Fall?
    Until these are answered, I can't with good confidence leave Verizon and jump to AT&T for this device.
  • Yes's it will be updated,read the comments above
  • I spent my whole break learning Silverlight FUUUUU!
  • Relax yourself. Have you used xaml? They are extremely similar.
  • Don't worry - your Silverlight skills are reusable with WinRT + C#/VB.
  • Most of all the things you use and learn in Silverlight apply to all programming languages. Silveright is actually a very good framework to start with, don't be upset it will benefit you in many ways as you go forward.
  • Don't worry about it. It's not going away... it's upgrading and getting a new name.
  • considering the  promotions for Lumia 800 and 900, If  Microsoft is not going to provide appollo update for these devices, I am sure Microsoft and Nokia will die sooner. Microsoft will surely come up with appollo update for Lumia series else The y are out of the market for Sure.
  • Exactly. MS is in no position to piss off all earlybird buyers that supported the platform from the beginning. Though I will wait for autumn and then decide if the successor to my Omnia7 will be a WP8 phone or the new iPhone. Both will probably be released about the same time.
  • I have no idea, but of course that won't stop me from speculating... For compatibility across devices, perhaps Microsoft will offer a stripped-down version of Apollo, something of an Apollo Light, for 2nd gen phones, like the Lumias?
  • That is exactly what is rumoured! And that would be the most efficient solution for both users and developers (no developer would want to maintain separate codebases for WP7 and WP8).
  • I suspect we will be lucky to see Apollo devices in 2012. Main thrust of 2012 will be Windows 8 for tablets and pcs. That's where MS has to focus. I suspect WP8 will follow later. So for folks getting the lumia 900, don't fret. Its the premium phone on WP7, its not going to stop working when Apollo is released !
  • Of course we will see them in 2012 - Microsoft is not out of their minds to skip a whole year. Windows Phone is handled by a separate team, they have enough resources to pull it off.
  • Nokia tend to provide updates for at least two years for most of their devices. I disagree that Apollo will be super highend but rather will be able to scale up or down easier. Min Win is now at the stage that is allowing them to do this.
    As for apps, current ones will run but I suspect metro style applications written for Windows 8 could quite easily make the docked view the phone app, now think about the possibilities this brings to developers!
  • When combined with C#, WinRT is essentially Silverlight 6 - a few minor changes in core BCL, and a lot of OS APIs added; but generally it is highly compatible.
    In fact WinRT is better - mostly because it is a part of the OS, thus ensuring long term support and first class status of WinRT; something Silverlight never really had.
  • I think maybe some people don't know the history of silverlight and why it should be replaced on the phone. Silverlight was originally called WPF/E. it was a subset of WPF, the XAML based UI language used for windows applications.
    Because it's a subset, it means a lot of features were missing and workarounds were needed.
    To make things worse, the silverlight on windows phone is an older version (when they were adapting it for the phone, they took the latest version, 3, but since then 4 and 5 came out)
    silverlight was always and will always be, a browser plugin. so silverlight, just like flash, should be replaced by HTML5 at some point.
    There will be a small learning curve when going from the crippled silverlight for windows phone to the more fully featured WPF that will probably be available with WP8, but devs are used to getting newer and better versions of frameworks, so it shouldn't be a problem.
    the skills these devs have, C# and XAML, are not going to be useless any time soon. I bet apps on Windows 9/ WP9 will still use XAML and C#
  • I just had to dive into WPF (10 years of Windows Forms .net dev prior) and I will say its acturally very refreshing and the designer support kicks win forms designer in the *!@#*@#$ ... :] I can almost bet my last dollar that windows phone 8 will run just fine on the Lumia 900 and even current mango devices .. Do remember they are pushing lower end handsets out and to think that going forward those would not support Apollo would be pretty much against the whole direction of Tango.
  • It is WPF that is dead.
    Next generation app framework for both Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 is WinRT, which is based on Silverlight (not on WPF).
    Also, Windows Phone 7.5 has Silverlight 4 (only original WP 7.0 had version 3).
    And finally, amount of browser-specific functionality in Silverlight is rather insignificant: it is a memory-effecient .NET runtime - nothing more, nothing less.
  • all this is great news , but wait a minute
    when microsoft starts to sell windows phone 8, somthing bad happen
    you see as of today from a developer point of view
    you can not develop and target the device nokia 710,800,900
    you can only target 256mb devices and 512 mb devices
    but 512mb devices include the old 2010 phones wicth are slow compared to the new 512mb devices nokia 710,800,900,htc titan,htc radar
    and you can target the new nokia 610 low end phones, but there is only room a round 60mb in memory for your game,, so it kill most 3d games with great graphics
    and when windows 8 phones hit the market, you will not enable to target the device
    course it all so have to run on the old phones(wicth are the new on today) wicth are upgrated as microsoft says
    and with the lack of game developer ment platform compared to iphone and android phones , custom shaders, true hardware float point , and some othere stuff
    it is a dead end, and that is what the media it talking about , the verge, and here
    windows phone is missing all the great games with great graphics
    so we all have to wait 3 years for windows 9 phones to see some change
    this is the clock cycle where microsoft shift os and upgraed the platform
  • They should bring in the ability to flash your phone to a stock WP even if it means we don't get carrier or manufacturer software so when we are left out of the update cycle we don't end up heading over to ios so we can get more security over our updates.