Microsoft is lifting the curtain to provide a preview of some of the software and hardware changes for its Windows Phone 8 operating system today. NFC, dual- and quad-core support are all set, and Microsoft has shifted over to the NT kernel for Windows Phone 8 to make it even easier for developers to code for its mobile and desktop ecosystems. There's a new Wallet hub, deeper integration of Skype, and an updated Start Screen interface with support for small tiles. Despite the improvements and hardware support, Microsoft will not release this particular update to existing devices. Instead, the company plans to rollout a Windows Phone 7.8 update separately that will bring some of Windows Phone 8’s user interface changes to existing devices, but many of the other improvements will require new hardware.

After shipping an initial Windows Phone 7 release in November 2010 and a major 7.5 "Mango" update less than a year ago, Microsoft’s mobile efforts excel in some areas but also lack the big name app support and feature sets of its rivals iOS and Android. While Microsoft isn't discussing all of its Windows Phone 8 features today, it's clear the fundamental platform change will help the company achieve feature parity in some areas, greater support for a wide range of hardware, and ultimately attract new users to Windows Phone. Discover the first details about Windows Phone 8 right here.