Speaking at the Mobile World Congress tradeshow, Steve Ballmer has just given the world its first official look at Windows Phone 7 Series, the next generation of Microsoft’s operating system for smartphones.
This will be a departure from previous versions, with a dramatically new user interface and a much greater focus on consumers. It will bring together Xbox LIVE games and the Zune music and video experience.
The New User Experience
Windows Phone 7 will have a completely redesigned Start screen. Instead of static icons that serve as an intermediate step on the way to an application, it will feature “live tiles” that are updated in real time. For example, a tile of a friend gives an up-to-date view of their latest pictures and posts.
It will be focused on pulling information from the Web, rather than a desktop PC. Every phone running this operating system will come with a dedicated hardware button for Bing, Microsoft’s search service. It will also have ties to a variety of social networking services.
The People Hub is going to combine address book info and posts from social networking services.
The Music + Video hub will make the smartphone act quite a bit like a Zune HD, including synchronizing with the Zune desktop software.
The Games Hub on Windows Phone 7 will be tied into Xbox Live, letting users chat with each other, and share Achievements and their gamer profile.
Despite Windows Phone 7’s much greater focus on consumers, Microsoft isn’t completely forgetting about business users. The Office Hub will offer new versions of Word, Excel, OneNote, SharePoint Workspace, and other Office apps.
During today’s unveiling event, Microsoft talked about the importance of third-party applications, but was somewhat vague about its plans for how they will be handled in the next version of this operating system.
The company did say that the Marketplace Hub will allow user to download and install “certified applications and games,” but gave no other details. Unconfirmed reports indicate that this will be the only method for installing software.
No mention was made of running apps written for the current version of Windows Mobile 6.5, and unconfirmed reports have said that Windows Phone 7 will not have backward compatibility, and so it won’t be able to run any current software.
Not Coming Soon
Although Microsoft gave a demonstration of Windows Phone 7, this doesn’t mean the release of devices running it will be available in the near future. Microsoft said today that customers will be able to purchase the first phones in stores near the end of the year, during for holiday shopping season.
LG, HTC, HP, Samsung, Toshiba, Samsung, Dell, and Garmin-Asus are all working on models running Windows Phone 7, but no models were announced today. When the hardware and software is ready, these devices will be offered by AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, Vodafone, Orange, and many other carriers.
Microsoft has prepared a video demonstrating some of the new features of Windows Phone 7: