'Windows Phone 7' A Radically New Smartphone OS
Microsoft has announced a new operating system for smartphones, finally ending the long criticized era of Windows Mobile. The new operating system not only breaks from Windows Mobile in appearance, but in its naming scheme as well.
Say hello to Windows Phone 7 Series.
The complete redesign and name change are intended to help Microsoft distance itself from Windows Mobile, which was viewed as one of the worst smartphone operating systems in recent years.
Consumers and experts alike are so impressed with Windows Phone 7, displayed for the first time over the weekend at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, that some are already saying it will be Microsoft's first true competition against the iPhone.
The most obvious change in Windows Phone 7 is the interface. Instead of the dropdown menu system of Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7 uses a series of simple box icons for different functions. The icons display information about users' calls, emails and texts, such as the number of unread messages, missed calls and so forth.
A prominent design feature of Windows Phone 7 is letting the interface run off the side of the display, meaning that a lot of scrolling may be necessary to get to some options. Nevertheless, the scrolling and interface design are smooth and seamless, and the information bleeding off the side and bottom of the display gives a sense of scale that belies the small smartphone screen.
The changes are much more than skin deep. The entire OS has been redesigned into a new set of "hubs" that organize media and data for users. The hubs are organized into People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace and Office.
The "People" hub combines traditional contact lists and a social media feed and it gives updates on your friends' activities and posts in various social networks . Currently, only Facebook and Windows Live are supported. Contacts are synced and backed up without needing to connect to a computer. If you want to keep tabs on a specific person, it's possible to make a tile on the Start screen that displays updates for that person.
A focus on gaming?
Marketplace is where users can purchase and download apps for the phone . Current Windows Mobile apps will be incompatible with Windows Phone 7, which has surprised many developers who have already invested time in Windows Mobile apps. Microsoft will certainly be pushing for more Windows Phone 7 apps as the company transitions.
Microsoft has also tied Windows Phone 7 directly into the Xbox Live service, which will undoubtedly excite many gamers. Now the Live profile, achievements and gamer points on the system will all be accessible through the phone. This could be an indication that Microsoft wants to focus more on mobile gaming just as Apple did with the iPhone.
Windows Phone 7 will use Internet Explorer as its Web browser, which will disappoint many people because it is notoriously slower than many other mobile browsers. However, it will allow for multitouch gestures and multiple browser windows, which are both big benefits. Outlook has also been spruced up for Windows Phone 7 and will be available to handle email.
Microsoft also plans to take a bigger role in the hardware selection process. The company won't be manufacturing phones, but it has set a series of standards in order to ensure that the Windows Phone 7 experience is better for consumers. For instance, there is a strict set of minimum requirements that are quite impressive for this generation of phones. Accompanying that are equally strict benchmarks making sure that every Windows Phone 7 device performs to a certain level.
Microsoft announced they are working with Qualcomm, LG, Samsung, Garmin Asus, HTC, HP, Dell, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and AT&T at launch, although that list is sure to grow (for instance, AT&T will certainly not be the only network with Windows Phone 7 devices).
Windows Phone 7 marks a culmination of Microsoft's work over the past few years. It includes everything from Zune and Xbox live for music and gaming to Internet Explorer and Office for Internet and documents. It even has a Bing search button built into the interface. If the OS turns out to be as slick and useful as the early demos make it out to be, it might make the years of hard work in so many areas worth it for Microsoft.