The Core Connectivity API totally works for Windows Phone 8.
They've changed CLSIDs of all classes and IIDs of all interfaces, but the new ones can be fairly easily seen in the registry. There are several new interfaces (ICcConnection2/3/4, notably) that make more sense for the Windows Phone security model. There's no arbitrary file/registry access that I can see (those methods return E_ACCESSDENIED), but some methods still work.
This new CoreCon has version numbers 10/11/12, which probably corresponds to Visual Studio 10/12/13 that it comes with. The DLLs are under C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\microsoft shared\Phone Tools\CoreCon\12.0\Bin. Most amazingly, the main DLL - ConMan2.dll - has debug symbols on Microsoft Symbol Server. Poking around it in a debugger or in a disassembler is a pleasure, considering.
Let's see how far this takes me. The LaunchApplication() method works, but I wonder what rights in the filesystem do I have...