Tech News and Opinions (by Paul Spain)

Exclusive: Microsoft zeros in on Windows Phone 7 launch with Release Candidate RC1 builds

, posted: 2-May-2010 13:20

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 development team are on the home straight for the initial release of the Windows Phone 7 operating system and associated applications. As the team focus more in on release it is expected that creation of new features will soon be put aside to focus on the 'fit and finish' of the product, along with killing off bugs impacting performance and stability.

In recent days Microsoft released an updated build of the Windows 7 OS and an associated emulator so developers writing apps for WP7 (Silverlight or XNA Studio) can test them. This build is 6176 and is clearly labelled as being from the WM7_RC1Escrow branch (see screenshots below) - highlighting that the development team is now focused on finalising the software so it can be provided mobile handset makers. It's unclear exactly how far off it will be until the RC1 is completed, or if there will be a second release candidate (RC2) for Windows Phone 7.

The current build (see screenshots below) includes a pseudo functional radio (via an FM simulation driver), dialling (via a GSM simulator) along with a number of other semi-functional apps and features - including Microsoft Office which allows creation, editing and formatting of documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. Many functions across Windows Phone 7 however seem to have been deliberately disabled or are not yet completed - even after unlocking the operating system via techniques disclosed in a number of online forums. We also found a simple compass application for developers and hardware vendors to test with - although it was somewhat buried in the OS - likely due to it not being targeted at end users.

Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Lock Screen

Updates post RTM

If the experience of the two Zune HD releases  (16gb/32gb and recent 64gb) is anything to go by, it is likely that following the final build released to phone manufacturers there will be an updated version which buyers will be able to download once they receive their new handset. It is possible this second build available on release day will just include very minor changes to the RTM build however some speculate that an initial iteration of the copy/paste function may debut at this time.

Email/ActiveSync limitations may impact iPhone competitiveness

One feature missing from the iPhone OS since it's release has been the ability to limit data used synching with Exchange Servers by setting message size and format to download. Users from some countries (such as New Zealand and Australia) have found their roaming data charges whilst travelling overseas can exceed US$50/day due in part to this limitation. It was expected that Microsoft would deliver this functionality with Windows Phone 7 since all previous Windows Mobile handsets have provided this flexibility. The current developer build does provide some options related to wireless synch however the options of message size limits and format (HTML or text) do not appear to have been exposed yet. I hope this is included prior to release.

Voice Control

Via the 'Settings' menu function, a section titled 'Speech' (and subtitled 'voice control') highlights likely speech recognition and speech synthesis functions. As yet we we not able to activate these functions however were able to record voice notes in OneNote (a part Microsoft 2010 included as part of the WP7 RC builds). We found included in the file system references to Voice Control and TellMe - for a taste of what the voice functionality is likely to consist of take a look at the TellMe website.


Wondering how robust the Windows Phone 7 is currently? In general it seems quite reliable though occasionally I've seen issues with screen display and lockups which may relate to the emulator. I have heard of Microsoft staff who have been using Windows Phone 7 devices as their primary mobile phone since January this year so the phone side is likely solid already. Also, I hear Microsoft have been running focus groups to gain feedback on the user interface and how the devices operate. With so much invested in this release it seems very unlikely we'll see an unstable release once Windows Phone 7 reaches RTM in the coming weeks or months.

(Stay tuned to for further updates on WP7, etc)

Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Radio Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - CalendarWindows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Call Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Messaging Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Outlook Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Speech Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Home screen Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - One Note Windows Phone 7 Release Candidate - ExcelWindows Phone 7 Release Candidate - Compass

Other related posts:
Microsoft Build – Bots, Inking, Cortana, Windows 10 now installed on 270+ million PCs
NZ Tech Podcast 267: Air and underwater drone, Police 3D mugshots, Samsung vs Huawei, Plan B grabs ICONZ
NZ Tech Podcast 263: Laura Butler – Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft

Comment by George, on 3-May-2010 10:24

I hope you can reverse the layout so text is black on white background. The small letters are really hard to see when they're a saturated color like orange.

Author's note by paulspain, on 3-May-2010 11:55

Yes, you can inverse the colours of theme as you suggest. I use the scheme above on my Zune HD and have no issues with seeing it however. Bear in mind the screen shots above have been downsampled and compressed - in reality screen are much clearer.

Comment by Rachel G, on 3-May-2010 13:50

With Windows Mobile, Microsoft would release it to manufacture in around March, but it would be November/December before handsets were in the stores. There was this huge lead-up time for OEMs to test it.

It seems that with Windows Phone 7, things are very tight for time. We're already into April, yet Microsoft wants this in the stores by October/November. I wonder it it will make it.

I also think it's being rushed. There are too many things not optimum. MS apps semi-functional. APIs not yet very advanced for 3rd party apps. MS can't afford too many rough edges on WP7, as the competition is very fierce. The public won't be very forgiving of any deficiencies.

Author's note by paulspain, on 3-May-2010 19:27

Rachel - bear in mind Microsoft control the specifications in most regards with WP7 and already have this running on lots of hardware (internally and with OEMs) and they can push at updates anytime. If you want to get a handle on this works, take a Zune HD for a spin .... it's an awesome and reliable experience and smoother to operate than the iPhone. This is very different platform to the old Windows Mobile where hardware vendors could ship any old piece of hardware and even an out-of-date OS in many cases (Android has this same issue also too much may limit it's uptake in the future).

Add a comment

Please note: comments that are inappropriate or promotional in nature will be deleted. E-mail addresses are not displayed, but you must enter a valid e-mail address to confirm your comments.

Your name:

Your e-mail:

Your webpage: