Earlier today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft finally unveiled its long awaited and often delayed Windows Mobile 7 mobile OS – only WM 7 isn’t what it’s called. Microsoft has completely rebranded their mobile OS under the moniker Windows Phone 7 series.
Semantics aside, here’s what we know so far about the new OS that is the Windows Phone 7 series.
The first thing you’ll notice about Microsoft’s new mobile OS is that it completely does away with everything you’ve come to associate with Windows Mobile – and that’s a good thing. The homescreen is completely revamped, the start menu is nowhere to be found and in its place is a scrollable homescreen with tiles. The tiles can be customized “as quick launches, links to contacts, or self contained widgets.” Underneath the improved UI is tight integration with xBox Live, its Zune music player, and an assortment of social networking tools as well.
The look of the OS has also been radically upended, mirroring the Zune HD experience closely, replete with that large, iconic text for menus, and content transitions which elegantly (and dimensionally) slide a user into and out of different views. The OS is also heavily focused on social networking, providing integrated contact pages which show status updates from multiple services and allow fast jumps to richer cloud content (such as photo galleries). The Xbox integration will include LIVE games, avatars, and profiles, while the Zune end of things appears to be a carbon copy of the standalone device’s features (including FM radio).
Since its release, one of the clear advantages the iPhone has had over its competitors is consistency. Every iPhone, from the original to the iPhone 3GS, looks the same and functions the same. Not only does this make things easier for consumers, but it also makes life a helluva lot easier for developers.
In contrast, the slew of phones running Windows Mobile lacked any semblance of similarity, left consumers confused, and essentially served as a big turn-off for developers.
But those days are long gone.
Microsoft is finally taking its mobile OS strategy seriously and if a manufacturer wants to run Windows Phone series 7, it’ll have to meet a specific list of requirements first. Eligible phones must have a specific type of CPU, meet minimum speed and memory requirements, and have acceptable screen sizes with appropriate aspect ratios. Not only that, but eligible hardware must also meet specific button configuration requirements (i.e only 3 buttons are allowed – a start key, a back key, and a Bing key). Furthermore, and as we reported last week, the Windows Phone 7 series UI will not be customizeable by hardware manufacturers, thus creating a unified and consistent UI across all Windows Phone 7 series phones. (Sidenote: Windows Phone 7 series is a stupid ass name.)
Put simply, Microsoft is finally stepping up to the plate and realizes that the smartphone market isn’t just about quantity anymore – it’s about quality, and that’s one area where Microsoft’s previous efforts in the mobile space have been unacceptably lacking.