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, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

  • Let's hope so. I'd be very pissed if they only give us a new start screen.
  • Maybe Microsoft shouldn't give us any update at all either way some people will be pissed off anyway.
  • Would be fine with me! I don't like the new start screen anyway. Let's hope they won't add any features or functionality to the 7.8 update that makes it worth upgrading, so, that I can stay with my current start screen. :) See, not everyone is eager to get the 7.8 start screen. :)
  • How can you say that the actual start screen is better? Actually the new start screen will be better in many ways. It benefits of the whole width of screen, without that useless gap, it gives you more control to the screen and tiles, no need to scroll so much, you can see more and reach quickier the apps. The grid is more complex and more pleasing to the eye, you can control the colors of the tiles. The actual start screen is so gross and poor compared to the next one. I just can't understand people like you keep telling this.
  • "You can control the color of the tiles" What do you mean?
  • One can have seperate tile color for each tile
  • No, that is not the case.
  • The new start screen without the black down the side is aesthetically ugly. Not to mention that while you may consider the black side "wasted space" with medium sized tiles the new screen shows LESS information than the old screen. You didn't notice that filling that black space you hated so much made the tiles bigger at medium size? The new start screen will require more scrolling to show information unless you make all your tiles small.
  • As far as scrolling more, I thought this at first, too. 
    But then I realized that many of the tiles I have at the top are notification tiles (three email tiles, one messaging tile, the phone tile) and can be reduced to a 1/4-sized tile.  What formerly took the space of two rows can now be oriented in the space of a single medium-sized tile, e.g. clustering the e-mail and phone tiles in a 2x2 square (sized equal to medium tile) so my communication notifications are grouped.  The messaging tile also has the option of going full-width so you can see the last text message without opening the app.  Overall, more options with the potential to see MORE, not LESS, without scrolling.
    I just hope they use text reflow for the calendar and messaging tile.  As it is right now, my appointments are always truncated.  The same can be said of music tracks, which is really annoying (and a carry-over from the Zune HD).  MSFT's obsession with Metro's white space philosophy needs to concede a little something to function, I think.
  • "The new start screen without the black down the side is aesthetically ugly."
    seriously, have you used the new start screen? NO. so maybe you should close your mouth, youhavent used it, nor see it (more than in couple pics and keynote video).
    its just " aesthetically ugly" becuase you are used to the black space with arrow and you have never used the new start screen. if the start screen was without the black space from beginning, and they addded it with an arrow, you would be complaining about it. so do a favor and wait at least until you use it to say "its ugly" because you really havent seen it, havent used it, havent personalized it.
  • What u fail to realize is that with the new screen being so customizable, u can still have the gap. U can pin medium sized tiles in a 2x2 fashion like we currently have since tiles can be placed almost anywhere. Think outside the box a little bit.
  • andreisz, I never said the old (current) start screen is better! I said I don't like the new start screen. Please don't put anything into my words that isn't there!
  • well go to cluttered android.or iPhone way. You just a newbie lol...
  • Funny you mention because I picked up a galaxy sIII and used the windows approach of simplicity to the way I lay out apps and widgets and have found that although my droid screen does not look as good as WP7 it is more efficient. I think the new WP7.8 start screen won't look as good as WP7 but will also be more efficient. The smoked campaign will get smokier!
  • From all that I have read  if you want to keep your start screen the same in 7.8 you  with the possible exception of t5he "gutter".  You may even be able to keep that as well!   I for one hope they add a bunch of stuff to get as close to W8P as the hardware allows!  You are entitled to your own opinion but we dont have to agree with it!
  • Why don't you stay with your stock version then? Why bother about NoDo? Why even bother about Mango? Since you bought your phone stock, you must have liked your phone without updates right? Show me proof that you're willing to revert back to stock, then I guess we people can be complacent and stop complaining. What say you?
  • I even stay with own black lumia black mango start screen.
  • It would be nice to have more features but at the same time we should not be mad if we don't. I mean we are WP fans and they need the sales to ketch up. If they give us features most people Will not buy the new phones.
  • Do you guys really think that if MS had something even remotely planned they wouldnt have said it? Think on how pissed people are... all the bad media cover... They needed to mention all the good stuff they had at hand to tackle this... if they didnt, its because there wasnt any.
    From a business perspective, it dosent make any sense to further invest in windows CE. they wont get any returns on they money they put on it. You dont have to be an analyst to understand this.
    I am a MS fan myself, always been. I defended and supported WP from the begining, even convinced some of my friends to switch. I constantly buy apps just to support them. Cosntantly wrote positive comments on tech blogs... and they rape me off... And I perfetly understand why they did it this way.... and I'm happy they are making choices for the long run... but why if they thought on themselves first I shoulndt do the same? They made a decision that will maximixe their revenues, and the most strategic decision possible, to position themselves right... So why dont I do the same? Every app that I buy will be a waste.. every minute that I spend with my 900 I'm losing money...  If they are not commited to me... why should I be commited to them? I want to see WP suceed... But I dont want to make sacrifices for it, because they didnt not made sacrifices for me.... Developers wont do more apps for me, and I wont be getting bug fixes for the ones I have right now... My camera sucks, I dont have pandora, I cant play socially with my friends in other platforms... I have a nest thermostat and I dont have an app for it... I have a network camera and I have no app for it... and now I know I wont ever be getting those... just imagine how pissed I am? Screw WP... I had enough of it...
  • @EngineerArtistP...Basically, Microsoft can't reveal anymore about WP7.8, without revealing aspects of WP8!  They are unwilling to give any additional details for WP8 at this point, thus it only makes sense, at least to me, why they would not discuss anything other than the Start Screen for WP7.8.
  • Lol....
  • Be pissed? 7.8 is only the start screen.
  • I was at TechEd Europe this week and in almost all WP related sessions the speakers hinted that there may be more for 7.8 but that currently they can't say anything because nothing is officially announced.
    My guess is that some of the new consumer features will also be available on 7.8 plus some changes due to Zune Software being retired and the new XBOX Music and XBOX Video services coming.
    They also had the WP8 prototype device from the WP event the week before there and showed the new announced features (wallet etc.).
  • Maybe they noticed all the angry current WP7.5 users and the negativity and they changed their minds and are now going to add more than just the start screen. Maybe.
  • Nah.  They can't talk about 7.8 without talking about 8.0; obviously, they are trying to keep as many features as possible under wraps right now, so they could only announce the one thing that is shared in 8.0 - the start screen.
    When they talk about 8.0 in detail, then we will see all of what will be included beyond the start screen for 7.8
  • I'm pretty sure a petition full of angry people attempting to change something that's already changing the way they want it to change, is a futile endeavor. It's like signing a petition to get Intel or AMD to make faster, more powerful, less power-hungry CPUs. 
  • yeah because developing something huge as features to soemthing like Windows Phone OS its a thing of 1 day. righttt. stop being naive, the summit was for developers about windows phone 8!, why would they talk more about 7.5 or 7.8 if obviously that wasnt important.
  • I'm actually on the boat where I'm completely happy with 7.8, for now. I think that of course since not everything is finalized that they can still add or omit some features that is why we don't know completely what will be included in the final release. And yes expressing or voicing your concerns or desires do to a certain extent work or have influence, hence the updates and/or focus groups. 
  • I know I bought a windows mobile 6.3 phone not long before 6.5 came out, and that lasted me until my lumia 800. So I will be satisfied with any update I receive.
  • I have 900, liked to get a little more then a startscreen. BTW, here in Sweden, we love WPCentral ;)
  • Oh yes, we got a hole lot of love :-D
  • We sure do :)
  • We love WPCentral in Italy too !!!
  • I'm happy with either, this phones OS has served me well. Did anyone think who bought a phone think it would be upgraded to new OS? Not updating the versions. It's like buying a car, a new one is released ever year, do you think they'll upgrade it from a '12 to a '13 for free? But wait.. I have a lease (contract) No where in your lease (contract) does it say your phone will be upgradeable. Stop whining bite the bullet and wait another two, wait no.. Another 1 1/2 years to buy a new phone. Some plans let you upgrade early so it'll only be a year from when WP8 is released. Another note.. I like the new start screen it's like having a WP8 buy with WP7 under the hood. I'd used the example of a kit car. Looks like something completely different when you open the hood. Average users won't care if they have WP8 or WP7. They just want a phone that works.
  • this comment is meant mainly for people who bought a phone within the last few months. And others that have said they would drop WPs.
  • Shut up silly. Have you ever heard of cars being updated a year or two after its been released no ....well what about a phone being updated two years after release yes ....ok then
  • Don't tell him to shut up, he's right. You shut up
  • Yes, I have heard of cars being updated after one year.  Car companies used to do this all the time.  Do you wonder why a 57 Chevy is sought after, but a 56 or 58 is not so famous?  It's because the models changed every year.  Not so much now because they realized it's cheaper to just churn out the same car for several years. 
  • The car analogy works better if you buy a car but the company decides not to fix known problems. "sorry about that known fuel line, our new 2013's don't have that problem".
  • That's not a good analogy. There's nothing wrong with current phones. Except, that people feel entitled to the bestest, newestest thing.
  • I beg to differ there are problems similar to the fuel line.  Skype doesn't work properly on this platform.  Instant messaging doesn't work right on this platform. Basically background tasks is absolutely broken on this platform and this is on a 2012 device.  But don't worry, it will fixed if you buy a new 2013 phone. 
  • +1
  • Uh... No I haven't ever heard of a phone getting a "full" update two years after release. Even the iPhone4 which is getting 6.0 won't have siri or turn by turn nav. No company keeps updates going that long because it deters people from buying new hardware. I agree the car analogy is weak and well overused, but the fact that MS is going to bring 7.8 to all current WP customers is unheard of. The two+ year old focus getting 7.8???? That's impressive.
  • A better analogy is video game systems. Lets take Sony for example they had the wildly successful PS2, a huge library of games and lots of fans. Then they release the PS3, the offer backwards compatibility for PS1 games across the board but only some models could play PS2 games. That was due to the fact they had to use a hardware emulator for PS2 games which naturally meant an increased cost on the system. That decision didn't last long and hardware emulation was thrown out in later iterations because they were already take huge losses on every PS3 sold. They had to make the PS3 profitable and something had to go. This is similar to what we are seeing. The changing of kernels means that features that can be added to Windows 8 are probably easier to do because the NT kernel has been around for ages and many people at Microsoft have tonnes of experience coding for it and many established features for the kernel. CE was never meant to be a full featured OS and lacks the power to do many of the things we saw announced so it would take considerable resources to add those features. Making 7.8 an expensive endeavor, so anything added has to be worth the time and money spent. WP8 gets everyone's attention now and rightly so. I'd rather Microsoft focus on the future then trying to give legacy devices as much as they can. This is a logical decision they have made, it may sting for some users but history has shown they get over it eventually usually by getting new hardware or software.
  • No, not really. game consoles usually last a while before the next generation is released. The Xbox 360 was released on November 22, 2005, the PlayStation 3 was on November 11, 2006. It's 2012 and no new consoles are coming this year. that's a 7-8 year life for a product that costs half (250-300$ for a console, 500-700$ for a smartphone).
  • Don't compare phones to cars. I had an iPhone before my Windows phone, and though my iPhone is 3 years old, it still runs the latest OS. I expected AT LEAST as much from Microsoft, who normally is better about being backwards compatible. Mine is a reasonable expectation.
  • Not the same, you're talking running the latest IOS on third generation hardware. Try running the latest on first or 2nd generation iPhones, that's right you can't. I dumped my iPhone because iOS 4 performance on my 3GS sucked and caused having to reboot the phone even more. On my Touch I decided not to upgrade but most apps don't run because they require 4.0.
  • You also can't run WP7.5 on WM5 devices. there's a difference between supporting a 5 year old device with the latest OS and a three month old device
  • False. You don't have all the new OS features. You have the update number, and that's about it. That's what MS should have done, give WP8 to all and then just shortchange some of the features on current Gen phones
  • The car analogy people keep making is a stupid one.  A car is hardware.  I did not expect my hardware to be upgraded.  There is no good analogy to smartphone software in the automotive industry.  If you could flash ROMs on Windows Phone the analogy would be a little more accurate.  Because no, your car doesn't get upgraded, but if there is something with your car you are unhappy with, so long as you are willing to invest the time and/or money you can upgrade it.  You can reflash or replace or augment the ECU, you can change the aphulstery, you can add a turbo charger, you can replace the radio with a more functional unit.  Once your auto maker abandons your car, you are able to modify it and add functionality yourself.  This is more like upgrading your PC from Windows 7 SP1 to Windows 8.  I don't expect my Desktop's monitor to suddenly be touch screen.  I don't expect it to all of the sudden of NFC functionality.  I do expect to be able to install the latest OS (even if it is at a cost) and get the features my hardware supports.
  • Actually, it's not such a bad analogy for some cars. Ford owners for example just got their Sync software updated. so even cars are getting software updates that WP7 devices won't get...
  • I think comparing apples to apples, you can't play PS3 games on a PS2. Its different hardware but more importantly the way the software interacts with the hardware is completely different. So map that onto the WP7 to WP8 situation. Same thing is happing but for some reason people's expectations are different.
    I can't help but feel like some people bought WP for what they thought it could be in the future and not what it was. That is not a smart way to buy electronics. Buying a phone that doesn't meet you needs today, on any platform iOS and Android included, is just dumb.  
    I bought a gen 1 Focus that meet all my needs on day one (coming off a two year bid with an iPhone 3G). All the updates through 7.5 was just icing on the cake. I didn't and still don't have the false sense of entitlement that the newer WP users have.
    Meanwhile Apple pretty much established the forced hardware upgrade march and they don't even have a legitimate excuse like new kernels. I remember my iPhone 3G running like garbage after installing newer OS versions. I'd rather have a smooth experience than the "perception" that my phone is on the same playing field as the newest phone.
  • gosh! joe belfiore already said at win phone summit that 7.8 will be more than just the startscreen!! Just watch it again on youtube.... Why is everyone going crazy about this when its officialy confirmed?!
  • Yes. Watch again. He announces the new start screen and then he says that the guy from Nokia will now tell the audience what else will come for current users. Then a desperate looking Nokia managers amnounces some new apps for Lumias. I think most people are mixing this up. Belfiore never said there will be more than a new start screen in WP7.8.
  • I *think* you both me Terry Myerson, not Joe Belfiore. Either way, my interpretation of this (and most people's) is that Myerson was only referring to new Nokia apps, not 7.8 features.
  • It was the way it was introduced, which was as zacman said... He basically said "but wait there's more!", Nokia came on and waffled about Lumia apps, and then they changed topics or the presentation ended. I remember thinking "wtf? Nokia didn't talk about any other features at all!?!"
  • All I want apart from the Start Screen is integrated Skype which I think is what most of us want. Obviously everything else can't be done cause of hardware but Skype is software so if we get that I'll be more than content. If not I'll just have to force the issue and upgrade.
  • Well they can't do Skype and leave other VoIP out in the cold so they have to implement all VoIP carriers
  • I would imagine they can, because Skype is a Microsoft brand now. Nothings wrong with integrating one service while ignoring competing ones, especially when Skype is so popular already.
  • I think so, Skype lack of incoming call notification is due to server timeout issues, maybe this can be adjusted (Tango works). Maybe Skype will be not integrated info contacts, but the App will be fixed...