Microsoft has lifted the lid on its Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system in a bid to raise the platform's competitiveness against rival systems from Google and Apple.
But existing compatible phones will receive a hobbled version of the updated platform, due for release in the third quarter of this year.
Just days after revealing plans to build a tablet based on the software giant's desktop operasting system, head of Windows Phone Business, Terry Myerson, and vice-president Joe Belfiore announced the new platform as offering support for multi-core chips in smartphones for the first time.
It would also bring support for a new graphics processor.
Support for newer chipsets will allow beefier smartphones to take advantage of more powerful features in the new operating system, which include higher resolutions and a new Metro-style start screen that has customisable live tile sizes, colours and themes.
But existing Windows Phone 7.5 “Mango”, single-core device owners will likely end up feeling left out. According to Microsoft, the flagship Nokia Lumia 800 and 900 phones – released in Australia last month – won’t be upgradeable to Windows Phone 8.
The HTC Titan II will also miss out on the new features.
Instead, a Windows Phone 7.8 upgrade will bring the new start screen to current devices, which will have continued support and updates for at least the next 18 months.
While Microsoft didn’t show any actual new phones, it said manufacturers Nokia, HTC, Samsung and Huawei will produce Windows 8 Phones with Qualcomm chip sets.
The new platform would also build in support for IP telephony, allowing smartphones to integrate VoIP functionality for the first time. Phones will come bundled with the Microsoft-owned Skype app, which the software giant promised would look and feel like normal mobile phone calls.
However, call revenue will go to VoIP providers and not mobile phone carriers.
Windows Phone 8 will share code with Windows 8, including graphics and other device drivers, networking, the file system and media functionality.
The two operating systems will also utilise the same security model, according to Microsoft, with application development done in the C and C++ programming languages.