Microsoft poised to unveil Windows Phone 8

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is giving developers "a sneak peak at the future of Windows Phone" at an event in San Francisco today, and many expect the software giant to unveil Windows Phone 8, the latest version of its smartphone platform.

Microsoft has been tight-lipped about the next release of the platform, which has been codenamed "Apollo," but hints and rumors have been leaking for the past few months on the new features the update is expected to bring. The event begins at 12 p.m. ET.

According to a recent ZDNet report, the new platform is widely expected to support, among other features, multi-core processors, new screen resolutions, Near Field Communications technology for mobile wallet features, and more integrated Skype functionality. 

Additionally, Microsoft is going to try to make the application development and user interface environments as seamless as possible between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, its new desktop software that has been optimized for tablets. According to an AllThingsD report, both software platforms will allow developers to write to the Windows NT kernel, which should make it easier for developers to make cross-platform apps. Microsoft's current Windows Phone platform runs on the Windows CE kernel.

What is unclear though is if customers who purchased Windows Phone 7 or 7.5 phones will be able to take advantage of the new software; Microsoft is expected to clarify that today.

So far, Windows Phone has generated praise from critics but little traction. According to data from research firm comScore, Microsoft's U.S. smartphone share stood at 4 percent in April, a fraction of Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android (50.8 percent) Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS (31.4 percent) and Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry (11.6 percent).

However, that may change with the arrival of Windows Phone 8, as more carriers have pledged to support the platform. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) has already said it wants to do for Windows Phone what it did for Android--but that it will wait for Windows Phone 8 before doing so. And Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) recently said it is in final discussions with Microsoft and unnamed device vendors to sell prepaid Windows Phone 8 devices sometime later this year or early next year. Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) executives have also said the carrier is interested in Apollo.

For more:
- see this live stream of the event from Microsoft
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this CNET article
- see this ZDNet article

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