Even though we don't know much about Windows Phone Apollo, hints and teasers are fueling plenty of speculation. Most recently, Michael Halbherr, Nokia's executive vice president for location and commerce, told Engadget to expect the update in mid-2012. Although Microsoft quickly clarified that Halbherr's timing is inaccurate, the company didn't confirm or deny any other details that have slipped out so far.
Here's what we've heard so far about Windows Phone Apollo:
The Grand Convergence
It's no secret that Microsoft wants all of its devices to be part of a single ecosystem. “We won’t have an ecosystem for PCs, and one for phones, and one for tablets -- they’ll all come together," Andy Lees, president of Microsoft's Windows Division, said in July. According to some reports, this convergence could happen with Windows Phone 8, "Apollo."
In September, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said he expects Windows 8 to eventually run Windows Phone apps. It's easy to imagine how this would work, with the desktop simply showing simultaneous panels from Microsoft's Metro interface, whereas phones would show only one panel of information at a time.
What Nokia Knows
Halbherr told Engadget that Windows Phone Apollo is a "very different game" from Mango, suggesting that the update could also be known as Windows Phone 8. He also said Nokia is pushing Microsoft to add near-field communications support and "positioning framework" to Windows Phone Apollo, which would improve Nokia's navigation and location services.
NFC is the technology that will let people swipe their phones like credit cards at retail stores. Google is pushing ahead with NFC in Android phones, and Apple is rumored to be eying the technology as well, so the idea of Microsoft working on NFC for future Windows Phones seems plausible.
What's Really Next
Apollo isn't going to be the next version of Windows Phone. First, Microsoft plans to release "Tango," a minor update akin to the "NoDo" update that added copy-and-paste and other tweaks last spring. Apollo will be the next major update, as confirmed at an MSDN seminar in August. Although Halbherr's mid-2012 timeframe seems a bit early, a fall or winter 2012 launch seems like a safe bet.