Steve Ballmer has just been on stage at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and i'll be updating this topic with all the details on the new OS and all the related announcements from around the web. I'll also be posting my own thoughts and Chris and I will be recording a special WP7S edition podcast this evening.
Please feel free to call in to the show to share your thoughts - you can leave us a message on 01379 888101 (UK) or +44 1379 888101 (outside UK).
What is it?
'Windows Phone 7 Series' is the next iteration of Windows Mobile. You know how WM in the past has been successive iterations of an increasingly ageing platform with only limited change and innovation? Well, not any more. Windows Phone 7 is a ground up rebuild of the Operating System. You know how we've all moaned for years about the wasted opportunities in product synergy for things like XBox Live (promised years ago), Zune et al on mobile? Well, forget about that... WP7S is all about exploiting those synergies.
Forget everything you know about Windows Mobile / Windows Phone, everything is different. The tagline for the product is 'Designed for Life in Motion'. WP7S is designed around a simple layout based upon 'live tiles'. The Start screen (or home screen as we would historically have referred to it) shows a scrollable view of the tiles, which update in real time to show content - in stark contrast to other mobile OS' paradigms of 'static icons to launch an application'. For example, creating a live tile of a friend provides an up to date view of all relevant data about that person - status updates, pictures, messages etc.
With WP7S, Microsoft is very specifically mandating the hardware requirements for devices, including the hardware button configuration. Every WP7S phone will come with a dedicated hardware button for search (Bing), which itself will be optimised to provide intent-specific results, delivering the most relevant Web or local results, depending on the type of query. Every device has a big, touch, capacitive screen. Au-revoir WM Standard. Sort of...
Central to WP7S is the concept of hubs. Hubs draw in content from different sources into a single place to provide a unified view. Out of the box default hubs are...
Windows Phone 7 Series creates an unrivaled set of integrated experiences on a phone through Windows Phone hubs. Hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks. Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people:
- People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.
- Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user’s photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person’s entire picture and video collection.
- Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer’s avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.
- Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user’s PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.
- Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.
- Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world’s leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive and up to date while on the go.
Probably not! Microsoft has simplified the UI (they call it 'less chrome'), making it look attractive without being overly busy or complex. As well as providing a clean look this means that, coupled with the powerful hardware mandated in the chassis design, the whole experience should be smooth and fast. Which is good.
Now, a chunk of the guts of WP7S clearly comes from Zune, and this comes with a significant benefit. No more ActiveSync. No more Windows Mobile Device Center. Your WP7S series device will be managed using the Zune software, which IMHO is quite excellent. This is GOOD NEWS!
Will my old apps etc. work?
We don't know yet, but I suspect not. Microsoft is expected to announce a WP7S SDK to developers at the Mix10 conference in March. Nobody knows what this consists of yet but I suspect it'll be a hugely upgraded release of the Compact Framework coupled with (PLEASE MS!) a version of Visual Studio tailored to WP7S development with a much lower cost of entry than what is available today. We'll know more in about a month, but Microsoft absolutely needs to woo developers, particularly if legacy apps do turn out to be incompatible.
When can we have it?
Microsoft has announce 'holiday season 2010' as the target date for Windows Phone, and it's a pretty safe bet that they'll hit that date. Come Christmas, you'll be unpacking a WP7 device in your stocking.
Which manufacturers are building the devices?
HTC have already announced their support for WP7 and in the press conference today Microsoft reeled off all the big names you'd expect as WP7 licencees. They include Dell(!), Garmin-Asus, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm. Operator partners include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone.
If Microsoft are prescribing such a unique UI and also mandate specific hardware features, where is the differentiation for HTC et al?
This is a good question, and a very interesting one. The simple answer is - we don't know yet. I imagine that device manufacturers will be able to have slightly different hardware design (albeit broadly conforming to a chassis spec), customised colour of the UI, their own tiles and their own hubs. What I don't expect to see is wholescale skinning of the UI as we've seen with Sense / TouchFlo 3D. A WP7S phone will be unmistakable from the moment you pick it up.
So that's it for Windows Mobile 6.x and non touchscreen devices then?
Well, no, not exactly. Steve said on stage that Microsoft would continue to develop Windows Mobile 6.x. Whether this will be a business class OS, a OS for lower spec devices or become purely an OS for non touch devices, it remains to be seen.
Now how about some random facts?
OK, since you asked!
It has multitouch - 4 point multitouch is mandated in the hardware, as is a WVGA screen. It runs a version of the IE8 engine for browsing (it seemed very fast!). The text rendering uses a technique called 'sub pixel rendering' for excellent readability even when zoomed far out.
- Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 7 Series
- Windows Phone 7 Series official site
- Additional video / multimedia content
- "Life in Motion" Drives Development of New Windows Phone 7 Series
- Video replay of Steve Ballmer's Press Conference Launch
- HTC to deliver portfolio of Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series phones