Microsoft Announces the Windows Phone 7 Series– WOW!

Microsoft today has finally announced the long awaited successor in it’s Windows Phone line, as was anticipated; and after watching the announcement unfold all I can say is– WOW! Yeah, if you were thinking this was similar to the tired and true Windows Mobile that we’ve seen over the years you’d be really wrong, like dead wrong. Take notice everyone– Microsoft is back in mobile, and it looks like they’re gonna be here to stay.

Microsoft changed up a lot here in this latest version of Windows Mobile– called Windows Phone 7 Series, and from the early looks of it, all for the much, much better.

The Interface

Let’s start with the overall interface. Like was rumored, this new interface really resembles that of the Zune HD (though in a much deeper way than we though,t as this looks nothing like the rumored pix of the OS); heck it pretty much is the Zune HD’s (look at the start menu in the pic above). And you know what, I’m really digging it. Not only is the Zune HD’s interface sleek and slick, but with the new enhancements added onto it in the Windows Phone variation, it’s a really nice change from the iPhone and Android OS’s of the world, and looks to be something that will appeal to many users.

You see, unlike with phone like the iPhone and Nexus One, where the homescreen is mainly icons, the Windows 7 Phone Series is made up of a bunch of  icons for “hubs.” These icons, are kinda like live widgets when viewed from the homescreen, giving you live information such as how many new texts or emails you got, or a mini photo slideshow for the photos app– more than just an icon. The hubs are instead of the usual apps and make up the bulk of the phone, for pretty much everything:

  • Zune— aka the Media part of the phone for music and videos. And this is the full Zune experience– we’re talking Zune Pass and even the requirement for all phones to have built in FM radios like the Zune line.
  • Pictures— for viewing pix, just like the People hub, this isn’t just for the photos on your phone, but also those on your Facebook and Windows Live social networks. Yeah, insanely cool). And yes, there is multitouch. (you can see the picture hub in the top pic)

  • Xbox Live— for gaming. No, this isn’t an “Xbox Portable” with full intense games like Halo (though who knows, maybe one day we will have Halo in our pockets– let’s hope), but you do have Xbox Live on your phone which is pretty big by itself. Not only do you get to view all your achievements and gamer points which is done by using the same Xbox Live account you have on your 360, as well as customize your avatar even more. But here’s the kicker– you also will be able to get Xbox Live games on here that you can play and which will sync your achievements with your 360 (which could definitely kill the iPhone’s gaming). Now this is still the basics of what to expect from the Xbox part of the phone, but hopefully more will be revealed soon at Microsoft’s Mix developer event next month (which already is gonna have a huge focus on Windows Phone).
  • Me— Basically shows you what you’ve been doing on social networks such as pix your in, things you wrote, etc. (like say, you just became a fan of TeenTechBlog on Facebook), and also let’s you update your status’s for Windows Live and Facebook.

  • People— think of this as a Contacts app on steroids where you don’t just see your contacts list, but also your social networks with built in support for Facebook and Windows Live. And this is the full Facebook and Windows Live where you can view status updates from both and even post updates to post at the same time.
  • Marketplace— for downloading apps. Worth noting: as you can probably already tell, this is an entirely new animal than older variations of Windows Mobile, and therefore not all (if any) of the older apps will work without being redone for the new OS. Though don’t worry, there will be apps for this phone, and a lot more info on the developer process will be announced by Microsoft next month at their Mix Conference.
  • Office— with programs Word, PowerPoint, Excel as well as OneNote for notes, as well as other office apps like Outlook for handling email.

These hubs are on top of normal apps like the dialer for phone calls, Bing and Bing Maps for search and maps (with multitouch!), as well as the much improved Internet Explorer Mobile– which when I say much improved, I mean leaps and bounds above the older versions and near the iPhone’s Safari and the Android browser. Pages finally load fluently as they would on your computer’s version of IE, and of course there is multitouch here as well, which is absolutely great.

Navigating the interface also looks to be fairly simple, with a tap on the icon to launch the hub, and a tap on the bottom Windows key to get back to the homescreen. Now once your inside the hub, well, that’s where things are really interesting. The inside of the hubs are really cool– with navigating between different options and menus not in clicks and menus, but rather swipes right and left to reveal different options (as you can see in the pix of the hubs above).

And what about syncing your phone back with your PC? Well, Microsoft made that easier today as well– announcing that Windows Phones will sync with the Zune Software, which is also a much needed improvement from previous Windows Mobile phones and should make this a lot easier to use. All of this is very cool, and honestly (and ironically), something we would have first expected to see from someone like Apple rather than Microsoft.

Here’s a complete video walk through of how everything looks in the new OS:

Hardware

So unlike some rumors, Microsoft didn’t announce their own phone here (some say that will happen sometime this Spring), but they did make a big step in terms of hardware– setting a minimum requirement for phones to run Windows Phone 7 Series (we know, it’s a long name, even longer to constantly type!). And this is a pretty powerful bar I must say; in order to run this new version of Windows Phone the phone maker will need at least a capacitive, multitouch screen with support for at least 4 points touch (think like the iPhone screen, just with better multitouch), 5 megapixel camera, FM radio, as well as 1 GHZ Snapdragon processor (like in the speedy Nexus One) to keep things running fast and smooth under the hood.  There also will need to be a Windows key and a search key for the built in Bing search.

As you can see, these are pretty powerful specs to say the least, but remember these are just the minimum Microsoft needs the phone to have. They’re not saying it has to be all touchscreen or have a slide out keyboard, the design of the actual phones will be up to the manufacturers– and boy do they look to have a bunch of the big guys signed up. We’re talking HTC, Dell, HP, Sony Ericsson, LG, Samsung and Toshiba to name a few– so you can be sure someone will make the type of phone your looking for. Oh, and while we’re talking hardware, don’t expect anything like HTC’s TouchFlo 3D or Sense to come to Windows Phone 7, as Microsoft has offically banned the idea of custom phone skins ontop of the standard homescreen– a call we can’t really argue with as this homescreen and OS look 1000x better than the standard Windows Mobile homescreens we’ve ever seen before.

Availability/ Wrap Up

So when can we expect some of this Windows Phone 7 to come our way? While Microsoft didn’t set an exact launch date, they did say we can expect them to begin rolling out until the end of the year. And unlike the Droid, G1, Pre and iPhone which were exclusive to there respective carriers at launch– all 4 major carriers are on board with Microsoft here (with AT&T being a “Premier” partner– though don’t worry that doesn’t mean they’re exclusive), so wherever you are– you should have no problem being able to pick one of these up (at least, none on Microsoft’s end).

Now what does this mean in terms of us and buying a new phone? Well, between now and the end of the year (Microsoft is saying it’s coming “Holiday 2010”) is a HUGE amount of time, particularly in the fast moving cell phone world. I mean, think about it– there will probably be a new iPhone with all new software, and who knows what else from the likes of Google, Palm and RIM (the makers of the BlackBerry), so it’s to early to say whether or not this is the device of the year (we also haven’t yet seen any actual Windows Phone 7 phones, as Microsoft demoed this today on unnamed prototypes). However, one thing we can say– Microsoft is back in the mobile space with something that is not just innovative, but cool too– and I personally can’t wait to see what comes next.

Info from Windows Phone 7 Series.com

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Posted on February 15, 2010, in Cell Phones, Microsoft, Mobile World Congress and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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