Will Windows Phone 7.8 feature more than a new Start screen? Maybe.

With the announcement of Windows Phone 7.8 and the parallel announcement that current devices won’t get Windows Phone 8 Apollo, many have wondered if the new Start screen with customizable Live Tiles is all it will contain.

In essence, there are two camps on the matter—those who say Microsoft have only promised the new Start screen and those who pin their hopes on the “all we’ve announced so far...” line often touted by Microsoft when asked about the update.

Microsoft recently and directly told a few of us who cover tech media that Windows Phone 7.8 will only be the new Start screen with nothing else hinted at or mentioned. This is why we find many of the big players who cover Microsoft news taking this more conservative position because they are reporting, correctly, what they have been told.

But it is also true that Microsoft constantly uses the “all we have announced” line to cover themselves when certain plans are not solidified yet. And here at Windows Phone Central this is the position we’re taking. Yes, Windows Phone 7.8 is only the new Start screen but there could be more. When you add in the fact that Windows Phone 7.8 won’t come till after Windows Phone 8, you realize that Microsoft has a bit of wiggle room to change how Windows Phone 7.8 will be defined.

That doesn’t mean they can or will add more features but we think clearly Microsoft is leaving themselves the ability to be flexible.

This is backed up a bit further by Senior Product Manager and Windows Phone team member Larry Lieberman who recently gave a talk at TechEd 2012 on Windows Phone App and Game development. The presentation, available on Channel 9, is mostly a rehash of current trends in WP programming but at the end Lieberman takes some questions from the audience and one of them deals with 7.8. He responds to an audience question thusly:

“Will Windows Phone 7.8 get new features as well that you can access as a developer? Maybe. We haven't announced it yet.All we've announced is the new Start screen at this point. Sorry, nothing new to announce. You're asking me stuff I can't answer."

Lieberman’s answer is interesting only because you can tell he is hedging. Hedging an answer is certainly different then taking a firm position on the matter and we believe this is for a reason. If Microsoft is only planning a new Start screen for 7.8 then they could easily come out and just say so putting an end to the speculation.  That’s not what Microsoft is doing though and we don’t think they’re being coy—we honestly believe that some of these decisions are still being made, hence the grey area on these answers.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: this stuff is complicated. You can’t simply copy and paste a new Windows Phone 8 (NT) app or function into Windows Phone 7 (CE), instead you have to rewrite and re-code that function. It’s work, it’s money, it’s time and it requires appropriate management to make sure what is committed to is what is matched in the final product.

So in the end, we still believe Microsoft has more to show on 7.8 or rather, nothing is final just yet. That doesn’t mean you should assume that more than a new Start screen will come late in 2012 but we have a feeling that Redmond is looking to do what they can, when they can.

In other words, maybe. 

Thanks, Tasos, for the link

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the 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 watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. 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.