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Microsoft performed its first Windows Phone 8 striptease this morning at a glitzy developer and press event in San Francisco, revealing eight key features for the Windows Phone 8 platform.

While the announcements were developer-centric, they also reveal a lot about Microsoft’s plan to wow consumers. From NFC to mobile payments to software support for incredibly powerful hardware, Microsoft is preparing to pull out all the stops to sell the newest lines of Windows Phone 8-powered devices come this fall.

Currently, we still don’t see too many Windows Phone devices on the street, but the ones we do see show a high level of quality and design. Microsoft execs said this morning that Windows Phone-powered smartphones are some of Amazon’s highest rated cell phones with service plans — all of the top three and five of the top six rated devices.

Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore took the stage to talk about the new features for Windows Phone 8.

The first and one of the most interesting announcements was that Windows Phone will contain strong ties to Windows for the desktop and “will ship with a shared core inside the common code between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8,” said Belfiore. “It changes what the platform is about… that core technology has its heritage in the Windows kernel.” Drivers, networking, graphics, and media components will now be the same across all Windows-powered devices.

Also, devs will be able to write apps natively in C and C++. This and the ties to the desktop will make mobile development easier for developers already familiar with Windows.

Additionally, the company revealed eight key platform features:

  1. Support for “the latest and greatest hardware,” including multi-core chipsets, a range of three screen resolutions (800 x 480, 1280 x 768, and 1280 x 720), and removable MicroSD.
  2. Internet Explorer 10, complete with malware blocking, faster JavaScript performance, and double the HTML5 feature support of Windows Phone 7.5.
  3. Native game development based on DirectX for “killer games” and big, beautiful, powerful apps with platform and drivers in common between the Windows 8 desktop and Windows Phone 8.
  4. Better support for native NFC — not just on the phone, but also between phones and laptops, tablets, and other PCs.
  5. “The most complete wallet experience on any smartphone this fall,” including credit and debit cards, loyalty and membership cards, deals and coupons, and NFC tap-to-pay features.
  6. Nokia mapping technology, with NAVTEQ data, offline support, map control for developers, and turn-by-turn directions.
  7. “Windows Phone 8 for Business” ready to go for BYOD use in the enterprise: encryption and secure booting, LOB app deployment, device management, and familiar Microsoft business apps like Office.
  8. An all-new start screen, featuring the Metro-style, customizable tiles with real-time updates from calendars, inboxes, social media, gaming networks, sports data, and images from around the web and within the device. With the new live tiles, you can set the apps, tile size, number of tiles, and more. You can even assign tiles to individuals to keep track of the most important people in your life.

So, what does it all mean for you and me, the end users who will be shopping for a mobile device and looking for something to surprise and delight us? Here’s what those eight developer features might translate to for normal folks:

  1. Best-in-class hardware and apps that work across all Windows devices — i.e., more apps overall.
  2. If we’re lucky, a truly competitive mobile browser, maybe even something that competes in speed and features with the goals of a Firefox for Android.
  3. Potentially very high-quality games — remember, Microsoft is good at two things, enterprise and gaming. Windows Phone 8 could potentially power the hardcore gamer’s perfect phone.
  4. Cooler, more realistic applications for NFC. Imagine if every app had Bump-like capabilities.
  5. An actually usable mobile wallet — although this also depends on cooperation from carriers, banks, and many other parties.
  6. Mapping and navigation capabilities comparable to what you’ll find on an Android or iOS 6 device.
  7. A phone your boss will approve of (because that’s oh so important to you, you weekday warrior).
  8. A really freaking cool-looking phone that’s fun to play with and that is really good at giving you quick at-a-glance updated from your online life.

This event is still just getting started, so stay tuned for lots more over the next couple hours. For now, here’s a sneak peek at the features and announcements from the Microsoft event:

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