Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 7 Series, a heavily revamped version of its old Windows Mobile operating system.
Adopting much of its user interface from Microsoft's Zune media player, Windows Phone 7 Series was announced on Monday at Mobile World Congress. Microsoft has predicted that handsets based on the system will be in stores by Christmas 2010.
Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said at the Barcelona launch that Microsoft was taking a new approach with Windows Phone 7 Series in its engagement with developers and partners.
"We want to see lots of different form factors," Ballmer said, adding that Microsoft wanted "greater consistency" in various manufacturers' implementations than was shown in earlier versions of its mobile OS.
Andy Lees, head of mobile communications at Microsoft, announced a common core hardware specification for Windows Phone 7 Series handsets that includes multitouch and accelerometer capabilities. The basic user interface will also be consistent across all devices, he said.
Similarly to Android phones, all Windows Phone 7 Series handsets using the OS will have three hardkeys — search, start and back. The OS also comes with a new mapping application that automatically switches to satellite view when the user zooms closely.
Bing search capabilities are heavily built into the OS. An application called the People Hub, which is also integrated, can draw together updates from contacts across Outlook, social networks and email services such as Gmail and Hotmail.
The Office Hub is the productivity section of Windows Phone 7 Series. It allows the user to synchronise documents between the phone, their PC and SharePoint. PC synchronisation is provided through Zune software, although the phone can sync with cloud services without a PC being necessary.
Microsoft has also introduced a new mobile browser, based on its desktop Internet Explorer code, that uses what the company calls 'subpixel positioning' to show webpages in great detail when the user zooms in.
The picture album application has become the Pictures Hub, which shows pictures taken on the phone alongside those uploaded by contacts to social networks. An Xbox Live tool also allows users to play online games and manage their games-related social networking on the phone.
T-Mobile, Orange, Telefonica, AT&T, Spring and Vodafone have all committed to carrying Windows Phone 7 Series handsets, according to Lees. Microsoft is working particularly closely with AT&T and Orange on implementing the new operating system in their phones, he added.