Saturday, February 27, 2010

Windows Phone 7 Series: What You Need to Know

Microsoft has evidently been working their socks off with their new mobile OS. They have completely rebuilt Windows Mobile, getting rid of any indication that Windows Mobile ever existed. Therefore, it makes sense that Microsoft has decided to do a little re-branding by calling this new mobile platform Windows Phone 7 Series.

A whole new UI has been built. Gone have the days when WinMo users were confronted with the familiar Start screen, instead replaced with a fully customizable “tiles” system which can be pretty much be whatever you want it to be: Short-cuts, contacts, widgets.

Obvious similarities are present to the Zune HD UI: clean, smooth transitions and excellent usability. We can also see that social networking played a major role when designing the platform as new social networking tools have been integrated, allowing real time access to you social website contacts.

For example, one of the tiles can be assigned to a contact on Facebook which will pull their status updates and update them in real time. Another point to note down is that full multi-touch will be offered with pinch to zoom in the browser and photo apps.

Microsoft will be providing the MarketPlace to purchase the latest apps and we are being assured that by the time the first 7 Series device hits the market in the holiday season, there will be a MarketPlace full to the brim with amazing apps waiting for us.

Microsoft has stated that there will not be any carrier or partner UI customizations, and that there will be a single UI across all 7 Series devices regardless of their brand or carrier, meaning no HTC port of Sense UI nor will Samsung port TouchWiz to the platform.

Also to note is that Microsoft has put in place a minimum specification requirement for all 7 Series devices to adhere to which will include specific CPUs and speed, screen aspect ratio, resolution and amount of memory.

A popular addition to the platform is the inclusion of Zune and Xbox LIVE integration. You will more or less have an exact copy of the functions an actual Zune device has, which pretty much renders the Zune obsolete if you plan on a Windows Phone purchase.

Xbox LIVE integration will include access to LIVE games, avatars, and profiles. No games have yet to be announced, but Microsoft is saying that more details will be released at the MIX event next month.

Now for the bad news: Windows Mobile apps will not work on 7 Series. For Windows Mobile developers, this isn’t pleasant to hear. For almost every consumer, this was exactly what we needed. We all knew that Microsoft had to basically create a new platform to survive and it meant dropping Windows Mobile. What this means is that now we can finally see innovation hitting 7 Series.

Also, Adobe has confirmed that Flash is not supported on 7 Series initially. However, Adobe also confirms it is working hard to make sure that it does get onto the platform in the near future.

Another pressing issue is the confusing nature of whether multi-tasking is supported or not. A definite answer has not been given, but all indications seem to point to no. Joe Belfiore, head of the Windows Phone team, has commented that live tiles will be used to “bring value to the user, even when their apps aren’t running.” which seems to indicate that true multitasking isn’t supported.

Overall, Windows Phone 7 Series seems to be the platform that Microsoft should have made from the start, with a UI equipped with features to beat the competitors in terms of style and usability. We can only hope that Microsoft keeps on improving and innovating to finally make it a big player in the smartphone segment. Android, iPhone OS and Web OS just got some major competition on their hands, and first impressions give the advantage to Microsoft.


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