MWC 2010: "We hope 7's our lucky number," says Microsoft chief
Microsoft has unveiled the next generation of its mobile OS - Windows Phone 7 Series - with a new look UI centred on social networking.
Speaking at a press conference during the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, a bullish Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the company wanted to do something that's "clearly differentiated from our past".
"There's no question that we had to step back - a year and a half, two years ago - recast, reform strategy, design approach," he told the event yesterday. "And I think that we're on our way to making progress to something you can be pretty excited about."
"We hope 7's our lucky number," he added.
To see pictures of the Windows Phone 7 Series user interface in action, click here.
Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's VP of Windows Phone, said Microsoft's radical rethink on mobile is all about realising a phone is not a PC - and that the user experience needs to reflect that.
"Don't get me wrong, I love the PC but a phone's just not a PC," said Belfiore. "It's a smaller, more intimate device."
Windows Phone 7 Series' redesigned UI comes with automatically updated "live tiles" on its homescreen - web-connected mini icons showing "glance-able information" such as new emails, photos from social networking services, and calendar. Tiles can also be customised by the user.
Another feature of the UI is "hubs" - landing screens which aggregate related content into more easily accessed streams, with integrated options to share or comment on the content via social networks such as Facebook.
Belfiore demoed five hubs at the press conference yesterday - including a People hub which aggregates contact information, social networking updates and emails into one menu on the device, along with an Office hub for accessing productivity software, and Pictures - for photo uploads to a variety of picture sharing web services.
7 Series devices will also sync with Microsoft's Zune software via a Music and Video hub. "Every Windows 7 Series phone will be a Zune," added Belfiore. A Games hub also integrates with content from Microsoft's X-Box console.
Another feature flagged up on the device is colour-coded calendar content to help users better distinguish between work and home life. "We support this theme of your work life and your home life coming together on the phone in an intelligent way," Belfiore added.
All 7 Series devices will need to feature capacitive multi-touch screens and have the same three buttons on their front - Start, Search and Back.
Asked about its licensing fee model for Windows Mobile, Ballmer said Microsoft remains committed to charging for its mobile OS - despite pressure from open source alternatives such as Android, MeeGo and the Symbian Foundation, which give away their mobile operating systems for free.
"I think there's something clean and simple and easy to understand about our model. We build something, we sell that thing," he said. "My parents, like most other parents, said if something is free you take a look and find out where the real cost is."
Devices running 7 Series will be in the marketplace in time for Christmas this year, according to Ballmer.
Device maker launch partners for 7 Series include Asus, Dell, Garmin, HP, HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba. Chipmaker Qualcomm also worked with Microsoft on the "core silicon".
Andy Lees, Microsoft's senior VP of mobile communications, said: "We have a new architecture, the way the drivers are developed, a new core operating system and we've worked hard to make sure hardware and software are fully optimised."
The company is also building a new platform for developers, with new tools and services in the cloud, said Lees - with further details to be provided at Microsoft's Mix conference in March.