Tech News and Opinions (by Paul Spain)

Windows Phone 7 Series to attack iPhone head on

, posted: 16-Feb-2010 06:08

Microsoft revealed today that less than 2 years ago they decided to abandon efforts to update the current Windows Mobile operating to a version 7. Instead, they scrapped all existing plans and decided to start on a new platform from scratch. And it appears Microsoft may have hit a home run - new phones based on this updated Windows technology are likely to beat the iPhone on a number of counts.
As was announced in this blog last year (and picked up by numerous media outlets globally) Microsoft now have more than 1000 people dedicated to the Windows Phone platform - so it's not surprising we're seeing some strong innovation from them.
It seems the stunning Zune HD interface was something of a trial run for the new Windows Phone 7 Series software. Though the Zune interface is very much a subset of what new phones based on Windows Phone will include, there are many similarities - as can be seen in the photos and videos in this article.
New handsets reflect the Zune in that they will be very simple and easy to use, be multi-touch based (i.e. navigation via finger rather than a stylus - some may also have a real keyboard too), use the Zune PC software for synching, and support the Zune music and video marketplace. The interface however will be much richer than what is included with the Zune which was focussed around content (Music, Video, Photos). The new interface for Windows Phone will include 'Live Tiles' as part of the home screen and has been extended to also feature 'Tiles' for people and communications - and therefore includes native Facebook integration and collation of information about people you've recently spoken with or emailed (if you've been using the Office Outlook 2010 beta you will have seen how this is happening on the desktop too - though in a somewhat different manner).
Big news for many Zune fans outside of the U.S. is that Zune services will be available in every country where the new Windows Phones are shipping. What isn't clear yet is which countries are in - and which out initially. This may line up with where Zune services are available on the Xbox 360. (List of initial hardware partners and carriers at end of this article)
In addition the handsets will include Xbox Live integration and gaming, new touch friendly versions of Microsoft Office Outlook and other Office applications, an update Internet Explorer, Bing search (via a dedicated button on each handset), new mapping software (based on Bing Maps and Virtual Earth technologies) and a marketplace for applications, games, music and video. It is also understood that Microsoft is stipulating all phones must also include an FM radio tuner.
Some are predicting that the inbuilt mapping application will provide full turn-by-turn spoken directions - though no such announcement has been made. It is also expected to link directly from Outlook contacts and to provide users directions to meetings in their calendar.
In many respects it appears that Windows Phone 7 Series (previously expected to be called 'Windows Mobile 7' or 'Windows Phone 7') may trump the iPhone in some key areas - especially Exchange email connections (the iPhone lacks important flexibility with regard to sync options), integration with social networks, Sharepoint access, a built-in radio tuner and some important extra buttons (back, search, camera). Naturally though Steve Jobs and his team in Cupertino will be trying to ensure the iPhone doesn't fall behind.
If you're wondering who will buy the phone - I think it's aimed at a mixed audience of both traditional Windows handset buyers (business users) and consumers looking for a combined phone, Internet device and MP3 player. It's anticipated that Microsoft Outlook on the new phones will be a hit with corporate users as it's likely to continue to deliver the best integration with Outlook (on the desktop) and Exchange Server - trumping mobile email offerings from Apple, Google and Nokia.
So, what's missing? First up is actual phones - none will be available until towards the U.S. holiday season - likely September at the earliest.  And being an entirely new product there are no 3rd party applications written for it yet, however Microsoft has high hopes that developers will support the platform and expects to be hyping it at their upcoming MIX event. It's their hope that existing enterprise application developers will be quick to come on board, as well as Xbox game producers. No doubt Microsoft themselves will be releasing games and apps for the platform too. Also not included is Flash support initially though indications from Adobe suggest this is in the works.
Interface previews - highlighting the new Tiles feature - People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Office (click to see full size):
peoplescreen_web[1] picturesscreen_web[1]
gamesscreen_web[1] officescreen_web[1]
Initial Telcos/Carriers launching Windows Phone 7 Series handsets:
  • AT&T
  • Deutsche Telekom AG
  • Orange
  • SFR
  • Sprint
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telef?nica
  • Telstra
  • T-Mobile USA
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Vodafone
Initial Phone Manufacturers:
  • Dell
  • Garmin-Asus
  • HTC Corp.
  • HP
  • LG
  • Samsung
  • Sony Ericsson
  • Toshiba
  • Qualcomm Inc.
Detailed write up and hands on footage is available at Engadget.

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