Rumour That Makes Sense: ‘Subset’ of Apollo Coming To All Windows Phones

I don’t like to indulge in rumour mongering, but every once a while something comes along that actually makes sense. Long time Microsoft ‘leaker’ MS Nerd is apparently exiting ‘the game’ in a little over a month and has offered to answer all sorts of questions about Microsoft. A key takeaway has from the Q&A is that a subset of Apollo is indeed in the pipeline for older Windows Phones.

Whether Apollo (the next big update to Windows Phone) will be coming to older devices has been a burning question these few past months as the update will not only bring key hardware changes, but loads on the software side will improve too. While things like high resolution screens, multi core processors will obviously only be available when you buy a new device, some highly anticipated software improvements could make Windows Phone far more enjoyable for existing users.

When asked about Apollo for older devices:

Yes, all current Windows Phones will receive a subset of Apollo. The carriers are the primary obstacle in the US. I hear Microsoft is pushing hard for a Mango-like delivery schedule, as are Nokia & HTC. Some Apollo features will be exclusive to the 3rd-gen devices expected to be released this fall on the MSM8960 platform.

That makes 100% sense. While this doesn’t exactly mean ‘OMG yes, the full fledged Apollo is coming to my Lumia 800 or xxx device!’, Windows Phone users should be happy to know they will not completely bitting the dust when Apollo devices come out in Q4 this year. Microsoft is keeping Apollo close to the chest for now, so we don’t know what exactly is coming – but I sure hope some of these improvements have been incorporated and judging by the Pocket Now Apollo leak, they have been.

Some improvements that I am really looking forward to are app to app communication (e.g. you can directly jump to Nokia Drive from Nokia Maps when you want to navigate and not have to perform the search again), native code support for better performing apps which will hopefully kill the splash screen that every app launch entails. Then there is deep Skype integration, BitLocker support and a ton of things we don’t know about.

So even if the full Apollo update doesn’t come to older devices (e.g. stuff like BitLocker encryption requires different hardware) things like app to app communication, native code etc, alone should be enough.

The reason I am confident that old devices will not be left in the dark ages is simple – Nokia and Microsoft are spending way too much money on promoting the current crop of Lumia devices to let users of these devices become disgruntled 6 months later. The Lumia 900 has been publicly called AT&T’s hero phone by AT&T itself, and after a multi million dollar campaign a hero phone that sells with a 2 year contract simply cannot be ignored.

Are there any plans of making the WP more “open” in Apollo? Like enabling USB connection, using it with Linux, more personnalisation (setting default apps)? Do you have any information on this? What is Nokia’s role in designing the WP8?

Yes. For instance, WP becomes a “true Microsoft platform”, like the Xbox & WoA(8) & you’ll see Windows Phone Companion in lieu of Zune desktop client.

Nokia’s role is in defining chipset support (beyond Qualcomm), designing the camera-to-software interaction model, antenna & battery design, languages & regional services, etc.

We’ll know more about Apollo in the coming months, possibly E3 (June 5-7, 2012) if Ms Nerd’s best guess turns out to be accurate. But if you are planning on investing in the Lumia 900 or any other Windows Phone, it seems the thought of missing out on the Apollo action should not be such a huge worry.

On a side note, the Reddit thread is an interesting read if you are interested in what Microsoft will be upto in the next months/years – tablets, desktop and Windows Phone.