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Microsoft keeps Win Phone 8 under hype-boosting wraps

'Not all features have been announced'

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The reason Microsoft isn't sharing more information about Windows Phone 8 with developers is because it doesn't want to let the cat out of the bag regarding the features of its new smartphone OS, the company says.

On Wednesday, Redmond began accepting applications for its super-secretive Windows Phone SDK 8.0 Developer Preview program, but as previously announced, very few developers will actually get the chance to peek at the new tools and APIs.

Why all the hush-hush? According to a blog post by Todd Brix, who runs the Marketplace for Windows Phone, it's because Microsoft still hasn't announced all of the features of the new OS. Like most mobile device SDKs, the Windows Phone SDK 8.0 includes emulators that reproduce the full range of OS capabilities. Letting everyone download them would spoil Redmond's fun.

"We recognize that this is a different approach to delivering tools than we've taken in the past," Brix writes. "Our goal is to generate as much Windows Phone 8 excitement as possible to attract new customers when phones go on sale." *

In other words, Microsoft is keeping a tight lid on details about Windows Phone in hopes of drumming up the hype to iPhone-launch proportions. Whether it will actually work remains to be seen. Windows Phone sales have been lackluster, and developers haven't shown much love for Windows Phone 7.

Still, The Reg's Andrew Orlowski got a chance to fiddle with a few of Nokia's latest prototype Lumia handsets in New York last week and came away suitably impressed. But even he was eyed the whole time by Microsoft minders, ready to slap his hand should it start poking around in some verboten Windows Phone 8 feature. At this stage, it seems, the only way to see the Full Monty is to be a developer, and then only if you're one of an elite few.

To join the SDK preview program, developers must already have apps for sale in the Windows Phone store, and they should be ready to prove their bona fides by presenting their Developer ID and Application ID numbers. In addition, they'll need to know the name of their local Windows Phone evangelist (known in Redmond parlance as a "Phone Champ").

Even after all that, Microsoft isn't guaranteeing that every developer who meets the criteria and applies will actually be allowed into the program. Presumably those who do will be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement barring them from talking about what they learn.

Developers who want to sign up should move fast, though. Brix said Microsoft plans to slam the door on the program on September 17 at the stroke of 5pm Pacific time. ®

* Bootnote

Commenters to Brix's blog post generally seem disappointed with Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 launch strategy. One going by the handle "DrPizza" summed up the sentiments with a one-line remark: "There is no universe in which this makes sense."

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