MWC 2010: Is Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Series a game changer?

At long last Microsoft has unveiled its newest version of Windows Mobile. Long rumored to be known as Windows Mobile 7, it's now known as Windows Phone 7 Series.
Written by Joel Evans, Contributor on

At long last Microsoft has unveiled its newest version of Windows Mobile. Long rumored to be known as Windows Mobile 7, it's now known as Windows Phone 7 Series.

Last week I commented on some of the rumors around what functionality Windows Phone 7 Series would offer, and now we have official word on what Windows Phone 7 Series is all about.

First off, the user experience of Windows Phone 7 Series is a complete departure from everything we've seen before in a Windows phone. Modeled after the Zune and in fact ...

"Every Windows Phone 7 Series will be a Zune ..."

according to Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows Phone.

User Interface The Windows Phone 7 Series experience is revolved around six hubs which include People, Pictures, Games, Music & Video, Marketplace and Office. The Hubs, also referred to as Tiles, allow the user to go into that experience and then interact along the same line of that experience. For example, starting with a picture of a friend, you can then see the latest status updates from your friend, your friend's photo album, share pictures and videos, and more.

A lot of emphasis is also being placed on the phone's ability to separate your work life from your personal one. This is mostly highlighted in the Office hub, which offers access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace.

As for the hubs themselves, their names tell you what you can expect, but one in particular worth highlighting is the Games hub. This one brings the Xbox LIVE experience to your phone, which includes gamer profiles, achievements, avatars, and even Xbox LIVE games. If the experience is anything like the Zune HD's games, there could clearly be a mobile gaming contender here.

Hardware On the hardware side, Microsoft is enforcing certain requirements and one of those includes the standardization of some design features. Most prominent is the need for three buttons on the front of each Windows Phone 7 Series device and the use of a capacitive touch screen. The three buttons are Start, Search (powered by Bing), and Back. As you might expect, Search is context-aware and can be used from any application, anywhere in the OS. Microsoft did a great demo of it showing its ability to find local sushi places. Unfortunately, it all required typing, whereas I was hoping for some Tellme integration, since Microsoft now owns the technology. Maybe in a future release?

Syncing The Windows Phone 7 Series phone itself can sync to the cloud and also tether to a PC to get updates and new content. When tethered to the PC it interacts with the Zune client, as opposed to ActiveSync and Windows Mobile Device Center.

Overall, I'm glad to see Microsoft finally overhauling its antiquated Windows Mobile interface. Unfortunately, I think this time around, they've focused a bit too much on the consumer and left the enterprise behind. I'm not sure if Microsoft is still targeting the enterprise as heavily, but from the looks and functionality of the interface, and its emphasis on social experience (gaming, photos, videos), I would say that the enterprise user is probably stuck on Windows Mobile 6.5 for the foreseeable future.

The big question that will come is whether or not Microsoft is competing against the iPhone with Windows Phone 7 Series. According to the company's latest marketing video, it's acknowledging the role and utility of Apps but believes that they needed to

"… start over with a phone that doesn't make you go in and out of apps"

I actually agree with that philosophy and look forward to having some hands-on time with the new UI. It seems intuitive enough, so now it's more a matter of whether or not the experience actually limits a user's ability to get things done efficiently.

As an iPhone user, I have adapted my work style to the iPhone UI. I used to customize my Windows Mobile experience and now use Apps on the iPhone to fill that customization void. It appears that Windows Phone 7 Series is fairly limited in its customization options, other than the ability for me to "pin" my favorite person to my Start page, but we'll see what functionality is offered by the time the devices ship around holiday time 2010. In the meantime, check out the promo video below.

What do you think of Windows Phone 7 Series? Is it a game changer? Will it actually keep Microsoft relevant in the mobile space?

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