MWC 2010, Barcelona |
Windows phones should no longer look and work like Windows PCs, says Microsoft, as it overhauls its mobile OS in a ‘last chance’ catch-up to Apple and Google.
Microsoft has lifted the covers off a radical revamp to its mobile OS, known as Windows Phone 7.
The good news: Windows Phone 7 is easily the most impressive version to date of Microsoft’s decade-old mobile OS. In fact, so extensive is this overhaul that the OS is “basically a new entrant into the market” says Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business.
The bad news? You won’t be able to get your paws on a smartphone powered by Windows Phone 7 until the end of this year.
That’s a long run-up for Microsoft, its hardware partners (including HTC, Samsung, LG, HP and Dell and Sony Ericsson) and launch carriers, which in Australia are Telstra and Vodafone.
But there’s no doubt that Microsoft has finally delivered the Windows mobile OS we’ve been waiting for. In the process, Microsoft has raised the bar for all other smartphone operating systems.
“Phones aren’t PCs” said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s Windows Phone veep, breaking from the past when the OS was called Pocket PC, sported a Windows-like Start button and menu, and PDAs and phones were considered more like PCs in your pocket.
“We wanted to make a modern phone that fits people’s complex lives” Belfiore said. “We wanted a smart design that puts the user at the center of the experience, (and) we wanted to design integrated experiences.”
The streamlined UI in Windows Phone 7 is large, lush and finger-friendly for phones with multitouch screens and delightfully smooth transitions.
The home screen is divided into widgets called ‘Live Tiles’ which show real-time content from contacts, applications and services. Tapping any tile takes the user into the relevant main screen, such as a calendar, or a ‘hub’ which brings together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view.
Exploded views of Windows Phone 7's people hub (above) and pictures hub (below).
These hubs will include People, Pictures, Games, Music & Video and Office. While the first two are fairly obvious, the Games hub taps into the Xbox Live service, while Music & Video draws its DNA from Microsoft’s Zune player.
“Every 7 Series phone will be a Zune” Belfiore explains, with access to content from a user’s PC along with online music services and a built-in FM radio.
Belfiore also previewed how Windows Phone 7 will work with the forthcoming mobile version of Office through the Office Hub.David Flynn attended Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona as a guest of Samsung.