Windows 8 may be the biggest, boldest bet Microsoft has made in recent memory, and perhaps ever.

And the stakes got a lot higher for Microsoft on Wednesday as it announced what some had been speculating would come to pass: a new version of Windows Phone.

Windows Phone 8 brings some major changes. The most significant: it’s “based on the same core technologies that power Windows 8.” That means support for multi-core processors, larger screen resolutions, a wider array of storage options and the same web browser (IE10) that Windows 8 desktop and tablet users will have.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft is calling Windows Phone 8 its “most advanced mobile OS Microsoft has ever made.” And it could be the most significant step forward for the Redmond software giant as it looks to better compete with the likes of iOS and Android.

One area of particular focus for Microsoft in going after the mobile OSes of Apple and Google is enterprise customers. Here, Microsoft is promising device encryption, rigorous security functionality, remote management and ‘Company Hubs’ through which IT departments can make custom employee apps and data available to corporate users.

With Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 sharing the same core, it would appear that developers may eventually see the ability to build individual apps that function on all key device categories (desktop, tablet and mobile). For now, Microsoft is saying that Windows Phone 8 will support native C and C++ development, with access to gaming-oriented middleware. It also says that Windows Phone 8 will enable better multitasking functionality for applications that need to run in the background.

While it remains to be seen just how eager consumers will be to embrace Windows 8, and now Windows Phone 8, there’s little doubt now that Microsoft is serious about moving in new directions with its flagship OS. By taking advantage of the rapid advances (and price declines) in mobile hardware, the company’s approach of creating a new mobile OS that runs on Windows proper could prove to be a game-changer.