Thanks to a recent leak which has revealed some interesting information about the next major Windows Phone version, I can now publicly discuss Windows Phone 8 for the first time.

Windows Phone 8, codenamed Apollo, will be based on the Windows 8 kernel and not on Windows CE as are current versions. This will not impact app compatibility: Microsoft expects to have over 100,000 Windows Phone 7.5-compatible apps available by the time WP8 launches, and they will all work fine on this new OS.

Windows Phone 8, as its name suggests, will also be tied closely to the desktop version of Windows 8 in other ways. They'll be launched closely to each other, and will share integrated ecosystems, thanks to the shared underlying code, components, and user experiences. Windows Phone 8 is part of the "Windows Reimagined" campaign that Microsoft announced for Windows 8. This makes sense as they're companion products in every sense of the word.

Windows Phone 8 will offer far more hardware choices than are available today, which will come in more form factors and offer more (four) screen resolutions, according to Pocketnow. (I can't independently confirm that last bit.) The compatible software services will be expanded dramatically, and made very consistent with what's being made available to desktop versions of Windows 8.

Key new features of Windows Phone 8 include:

Data Smart. A way to actively save cellular data when possible and avoid "bill shock". Microsoft (not coincidentally) just blogged about this feature in relation to Windows 8. Re-read that post and think about how a smart phone would need/use exactly the same functionality. Data Smart can be extended by wireless carriers to integrate with their offered data plans.

App-to-App communication. Because Windows Phone 8 apps, like Windows 8 apps, are sandboxed from each other, this new system will provide a Windows 8 contracts-like app-to-app communications capabilities.

Internet Explorer 10 Mobile. Windows Phone 8 will continue to use a highly tuned version of IE which utilizes the latest web technologies.

Shared components with Windows 8. The kernel, multi-core processor support, sensor fusion, security model, network, and video and graphics technologies are all coming to Phone from Windows 8.

Companion experiences with Windows 8. Microsoft is offering a very similar user experience across phone (Windows Phone 8), PC (Windows 8), and TV (Xbox vNext). Pocketnow says there will be a new sync client, and not Zune PC software, though I can't confirm that part, and a set of common cloud services that will work across all three. This includes the ability to sync content (photos, music, movies) between the three screens, phone management from PC or web, shared content between each device, and Xbox LIVE games, entertainment, and more.

SkyDrive integration. Microsoft will make your content available on all of its platforms via SkyDrive.

Skype app. Still a separate but better app and not integrated into OS. Still optional.

NFC and Wallet. Windows Phone 8 will allow users to securely pay and share via NFC and manage an integrated Wallet experience.

Local Scout. Now with personal recommendations.

Camera improvements. New "lens apps" and a far more powerful camera experience.

Business features. Windows Phone 8 will include full-device, hardware-accelerated encryption with BitLocker and always-on Secure Boot capabilities, just like Windows 8. Also, it will support additional Exchange ActiveSync policies and System Center configuration settings and inventory capabilities. Businesses will be able to distribute phone apps privately as they can with Windows 8 apps.

Obviously, there are still plenty of questions and of course information I'll continue to protect. But suffice to say that Microsoft's plans for Windows Phone are quite exciting indeed.