has been taking a beating over the past couple of years in the mobile market, with operating systems such as webOS, iPhone OS and Android
really stealing the thunder that was once owned by Windows Mobile. Even Windows Mobile 6.5.3 was way behind those other next generation systems in many ways, and Microsoft knew it. The software company certainly took their precious time before jumping head first into the new world order surrounding the new breed of do-it-all smartphones, but Windows Phone 7 Series promises to make up for lost time in a big way.
The new mobile operating system was unveiled this afternoon in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress 2010, with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on hand to usher in the next generation of WinMo and hopefully brush aside the painful memories of lagging behind the "other guys" for so long. This is definitely the most exciting, and potentially game-changing, announcement at MWC. Consumers have been waiting for a new move from Microsoft in the mobile area for far too long, but all of the code that WinMo 6 was built on has been scrapped in favor of taking a brand new, fresh approach to the mobile OS.
Building Windows Phone 7 Series from the ground-up seems like a great decision. There's obviously a lot of tight integration with Xbox LIVE and Zune, and in many ways, the user interface resembles that already seen on the Zune HD. Microsoft isn't giving out too many details about when we'll see this new OS on phones, but we are told that partners have begun to build them and they should be available on a great deal of carriers (and from a great deal of phone builders) by the holiday season of 2010.
What's interesting is that Microsoft seems to be taking a Palm/Apple approach that they haven't taken in the past. Previously, with WinMo 6.x.x, phone makers were allowed to customize and skin the OS how they wanted. TouchWiz and Sense overlays made Windows Mobile look much differently than Microsoft's stock build, but none of that tweaking will be allowed this time. Microsoft is being fairly strict about what kind of phone can run this new system, and it will be holding more of the power. We know that sounds harsh, but it's likely that this will ensure that more users have a positive user experience. Before, Microsoft was trying to cater to everyone, and it seems that Windows Mobile became "okay" for the weakest link, leaving even high end smartphones lacking due to a weak and buggy OS.
Early reports seem to suggest that the new system is leaps and bounds better than before. In fact, many are saying it looks nothing like the Windows Mobile of old, and instead looks more like the Zune HD
but with a phone interface. Even the traditional "Start" menu is gone in favor of new "tiles," and while most every major smartphone platform uses tiles in some form today, Microsoft has managed to create something that honestly looks new and fresh.
Microsoft Silverlight required for this video demo
So, let's count: iPhone OS, BlackBerry OS, webOS, Bada, Android and Windows Phone 7 Series. The smartphone world just got a huge boost, and the other guys are certainly going to have to look at their portfolio in order to keep pace with the bombshell that Ballmer just dropped. We're excited to see more competition in this space. As devices continue to shrink and converge, the smartphone will become ever more important in the grand scheme of things. We'll be able to use them for more and more tasks, and given that Windows is such a dominant force in the desktop/laptop OS space, it only makes sense for the company to be a real threat in the mobile area. We'll be keeping an eye out for new Windows Phone 7 Series (yes, that's the full name, which is a bit long in our opinion) phones from Mobile World Congress, but it sounds like Microsoft will only be showcasing a prototype from a nameless OEM for awhile.
Windows Phone 7 Series screenshots - click for full res
Here's a snip from the official Microsoft PR...
Windows Phone 7 Series creates an unrivaled set of integrated experiences on a phone through Windows Phone hubs. Hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks. Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people:
People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.
Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user’s photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person’s entire picture and video collection.
Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer’s avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.
Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user’s PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.
Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.
Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world’s leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive and up to date while on the go.
Partners from around the world have committed to include Windows Phone 7 Series in their portfolio plans. They include mobile operators AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, and manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC Corp., HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm Inc. The first phones will be available by holiday 2010. Customers who would like to receive additional information about Windows Phone 7 Series and be notified when it is available can register at http://www.windowsphone7series.com.