It's astounding that until this moment, three years after the iPhone, the biggest software company in the world basically didn't compete in mobile. Windows Phone 7 Series is more than the Microsoft smartphone we've been waiting for. Everything's different now.
Yesterday, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Microsoft is publicly previewing Windows Phone 7 for the first time. The brand new, totally fresh operating system will appear in phones this year, but not until the holidays. All of the major wireless carriers and every likely hardware maker are backing it, and they'd be stupid not to. It's awesome. We've got a serious hands on for you to check out, but here is everything that you need to know:
The name—Windows Phone 7 Series—is a mouthful, and unfortunately, the epitome of Microsoft's worst naming instincts, belying the simple fact that it's the most groundbreaking phone since the iPhone. It's the phone Microsoft should've made three years ago. In the same way that the Windows 7 desktop OS was nearly everything people hoped it would be, Windows Phone 7 is almost everything anyone could've dreamed of in a phone, let alone a Microsoft phone. It changes everything. Why? Now that Microsoft has filled in its gaping chasm of suck with a meaningful phone effort, the three most significant companies in desktop computing—Apple, Google and Microsoft—now stand to occupy the same positions in mobile. Phones are officially computers that happen to fit in your pocket.
Windows Phone 7 is also something completely new for Microsoft: A total break from the past. Windows Mobile isn't just dead, the body's been dumped, buried and paved over by a rainbow brick road.
Rumors regarding Windows Mobile 7 have been rampant as Mobile World Congress approaches. Now some reputable sources have let it slip that Winows Mobile 7 is a lock to be announced at the conference. According to the Wall Street Journal, the user interface will be a dead ringer for the Zune HD portable media player. We certainly wouldn’t argue with that.
From Bloomberg we’re hearing that the new software will have heavy integration with Microsoft’s Xbox Live service and console. This certainly makes sense considering the massive success the platform has enjoyed. Expect more integration with the Zune ecosystem as well, maybe even an iPhone/iTunes style system. Noted journalist Mary-Jo Foley is also saying that she expects Microsoft to drop the Windows Mobile name altogether and go with “Windows Phone 7”.
As for all that Project Pink speculation, the WSJ says don’t bet on it. While they are claiming that it won’t be part of the announcement, the Sharp manufactured “Pink” phone could be out sometime this spring. What does Windows Mobile (or Phone) 7 need to be to get your attention? Is it just too late for Microsoft in the mobile space?
We've been hearing about a possible Zune phone for quite some time now, and according to Spanish blog MuyComputer, Microsoft will unveil the rumored smartphone later this month at the MWC in Barcenlona.
"The Zune Phone presentation at Barcenlona's Mobile World Congress 2010 is 100 percent confirmed," Engadget claims to have heard from MuyComputer's editorial director, Javier Perez Cortijo.
Should the rumor prove correct, calling it a 'Zune Phone' might be a bit misleading. This won't be a Zune player with a phone tacked on, and instead will be a Windows Mobile 7 device with Zune software.
On the hardware side, the Zune Phone will tap into Tegra. It will also sport a 480 x 272 touchscreen and come with an HDMI video out port, MuyComputer reports.
A few devices are very popular with rumormongers. The Zune Phone/Pink phone is one such unreleased device that they sporadically revive. The latest rumor has Microsoft releasing a phone in the next two months. Jefferies & Company analyst Katherine Egbert wrote in a recent note to clients that their “recent industry checks” seem to suggest the phone could be unveiled at “either the Feb 15-18 Mobile World Congress conference in Barcelona Spain, or possibly at CTIA in Las Vegas one month later.”
She further expects Microsoft to collaborate with an established OEM to produce the actual phone. Microsoft has been trying very hard to publicize its “three screens and a cloud” strategy in recent times. Although it is easy to grasp from the phrase itself that it deals with interoperability and convergence, there is very little in the way of specifics. Egbert feels that this phone is the missing piece in that puzzle. The phone, Egbert believes, will most probably feature a 5MP camera and 720P video support.
“We need a Principle Program Manager who can help drive the platform and bring Xbox LIVE enabled games to Windows Mobile. This person will focus specifically on what makes gaming experiences 'LIVE Enabled' through aspects such as avatar integration, social interactions, and multi-screen experiences,” Microsoft announced in one of the listings.
The company is also on the lookout for a Software Test Engineer to join its Windows Mobile division. The person chosen for the job “will report to the Gaming Test Lead in the Windows Mobile Entertainment team and have the opportunity to make a critical impact the next release of Windows Mobile.” The company clearly wants to offer a unified gaming experience across various device platforms. It will be interesting to see how exactly Microsoft integrates Windows Mobile 7 and Xbox Live.
Reports are surfacing that indicate a certain Redmond software company could be giving OEMs access to a certain mobile OS in just a few short months. After the lackluster reception of Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft is looking for a hit. Anything to keep Microsoft’s mobile head above water as the iPhone, Blackberry, and Android continue to move in for the kill.
The new software is reportedly code named “Maldives”, and should be in OEMs' hot little hands in the first quarter of 2010. The final release to consumers isn’t expected until later in the third quarter. This jives nicely with earlier rumors indicating a release to manufacturing in Spring 2010. It may be a while yet before you can get a WinMo 7 device, but you can certainly expect leaked ROMs to make the scene before too long.
Some screenshots have surface that purport to be from Windows Mobile 7. The interface looks cleaner overall, and has completely lost the trademark Windows start button from the corner of the screen. The pics cover a wide variety of the system’s basic functions. Confusingly, the shots are listed as WinMo 6.5.1. The interface is, however, significantly different from previous 6.5.1 leaks, leading most to speculate that these are the first moves into the WinMo 7 development tree.
The call screen has taken on a very iPhone-like aesthetic with a large contact photo. The calendar has been cleaned up dramatically, looking downright usable. The changes to the keyboard may be the most telling, though. Whereas the previous version was cramped and stylus friendly, the new version looks spacious, finger-friendly, and very similar to the Android keyboard. If authentic, these screenshots certainly indicate that Microsoft is moving in the right direction.
Microsoft had originally planned to release Windows Mobile 7 in 2009. But it then pushed the release to 2010. The cutthroat nature of the smartphone market offers very little leeway for such delays. Besides, WinMo 7 is supposed to be a product that will bring Windows phones up to speed with other contemporary smartphones.
The delay left Microsoft with no choice but to plug Windows 6.5, an interim release, in a manner only accorded to a major release. It is clearly a gambit to prevent WinMo loyalists from abandoning the terribly long road to WinMo 7.
More details about the mysterious Microsoft “Pink” project continue to leak out (including a possible drawing). The current consensus is that Pink will be a Microsoft branded mobile phone. However, Microsoft would most likely outsource the actual construction of the handset. It will probably have some sort of integration with Zune services, like the excellent Zune Pass subscription based music service.
The Windows Mobile 7 OS will likely serve as the underlying architecture for Pink. Several sites have indicated that Microsoft may start talking about Pink at CES in January. Though, the gadgets themselves probably won’t make an appearance until later in 2010. These rumors about a Microsoft phone have been swirling ever since the software giant acquired Danger in 2008.
Rumors also abound about a possible Microsoft tablet. Microsoft has mentioned that they intended to make a smaller version of the Surface, and this could be it. The initiative may be codenamed “Oahu”, or at least was at some point. However, it’s likely that Microsoft is waiting for Apple to tip its tablet hand. Is any of this a smart move for Microsoft?
The first Windows Mobile 6.5 devices haven’t even been released yet, but Microsoft is already thinking about Windows Mobile 7. A recent job posting indicates the software giant’s intention to build social networking into the mobile platform. Suspiciously, there’s a lot of marketing speak. This could be half job posting, and half clandestine press release.
The position is for a Project manager in the Windows Mobile 7 Communications group. The posting goes on to say, “Our vision is to bring social networks to life by integrating them into the core experience of the phone.” They also made clear that they have just “begun drawing the first lines of the Mobile Social Platform". This seems to put to bed the rumors that the new mobile OS would show up in the first quarter of next year.
Microsoft's initiative sounds similar to Palm Synergy, Motorola MotoBlur, and HTC Sense UI. Aggregating social media content on phones does seem to be all the rage these days. Is Microsoft late to the game here, or is the time right? More importantly, can they pull it off?