If Microsoft has to make up for the “generation we missed with Windows Mobile,” it will have to ensure that Windows Phone 7 proves too hard to ignore for developers, vendors and carriers. The company has been working on acquainting developers with its upcoming smartphone platform since March, when it unveiled the Windows Phone Developer Tools package as a community technology preview (CTP). The developer tools package now sports the beta tag.
The beta tag means that the package includes an almost finished version of everything needed for app and game development, including Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone Emulator, Silverlight for Windows Phone and XNA Game Studio 4.0 Beta. MS has also begun shipping pre-production preview devices to developers just as it promised, with the first devices "awarded last week to a pair of pretty amazing high-school students who won the Windows Phone “Rockstar” contest as part of the Imagine Cup.”
When Google entered the smartphone arena everyone knew they had mobile advertising on the brain, but Microsoft's motivations were a bit of a mystery. Some might have assumed that they saw Windows Phone 7 as a natural extension of the desktop experience, but according to executives within the company it is being viewed internally as a powerful "Ad-Serving" platform.
In a recent interview with Business Development Manager Kostas Mallios it was made painfully clear that Windows Phone 7 is being designed from the ground up to serve ads, while still trying to maintaining the brand experience. "What you'll see," Mallios said, "is there is actually a message on that tile, so that title is actually a dynamic tile that you're now able to push information to as an advertiser, and stay in touch with your customer." In addition, a small sliding box called "Toast" will notify users of updated information or any new ads relating to the app. It sounds like users will have the option to opt out of these types of notifications, but they didn't make it immediately clear what the default settings would be.
We doubt this will have much of an impact on the quality of the finished product, but it certainly is an interesting admission given how competitive the smartphone market is these days. We expect iAds and other Android implementations to be somewhat similar, but we just hope the ads don't start getting in the way any more so than they already do.
Apple and Adobe have been trading verbal blows quite regularly, with both companies even accusing each other of being a “closed system” at an unwittingly hilarious point in their duel. But Apple’s resolute vow to never allow Flash on the iPhone and iPad means Adobe, whether it likes it or not, will have to concentrate on other mobile devices. And it does seem to have the blessings of nearly all other major players in the smartphone market.
But Adobe might just be counting its chickens too early, especially given its failures to bridge the vast gulf between desktop and mobile versions of the Flash players. It can’t really afford another failed attempt.
But Microsoft alone can not be held responsible for displaying undue optimism as market research firm IDC actually helped it arrive at the staggering figure. If Windows Phone 7 actually goes onto perform as claimed in that slide, Microsoft will again be a force to be reckoned with in the smartphone market.
It looks like Dell is really taking the smartphone space seriously, with news that they are working on a Windows Phone 7 device called the Lightning. The phone looks to be the rarely seen portrait QWERTY slider form factor. With most Phone 7 devices we've seen looking like pretty similar landscape sliders, this is a breath of fresh air. The image is only a render, but the design looks very elegant. The specs are also looking good.
The Lightning is expected to have a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, 4.1-inch WVGA OLED touchscreen, a 5MP autofocus camera, and support for both AT&T and T-Mobile 3G bands. Dell is also including an FM radio function and the usual Wi-Fi, GPS, and accelerometer support. There will be 1GB of flash memory built in, with an additional 8GB MicroSD card. Oddly, the documents leaked to Engadget seem to indicate the SD card is not user-accessible. Dell also indicated there would be full support for Adobe Flash; we're interested to see what Adobe has to say about that.
Expected launch will be sometime in Q4 of this year. No carrier partner was listed, but there's one more surprise. Dell expects to release an LTE version of the phone in late 2011. Not telling is this phone will still look as good by then, but we're plenty excited to see it come out.
It seems like the ‘big boys’ are planning to play it safe with their mobile operating systems. Apple has limited the multitasking on the iPhone OS, restricting it only to core apps, while prohibiting third party applications, to optimize battery life and improve security. It seems that Microsoft plans the same thing for Windows Phone 7.
In an interview with Wired.com, Charlie Kindel, the manager of Windows Phone App Platform and Developer Experience program says, “We do not allow third-party applications running on the phone to execute in the background.” He continues, “We’re poised to support it eventually, but in order to support great battery life and great end-user experience, we’re focusing on the integrated experiences first.” That sounds familiar.
This, of course, stands in contrast to devices built on Google’s Android OS and Palm’s WebOS--both of which allow for legitimate multitasking. Users on both platforms do complain about reduced battery life, but also acknowledge, as they control what’s running, it's their choice to make.
Can’t have a smartphone OS these days without a companion app store, and Windows Phone 7 is no different. There’s no date for the opening of Windows Phone Marketplace, still Microsoft has been busy rounding up partners with wares to sell once it does.
On the list are Fandango, Sling Media, AP, Foursquare, Shazam, and Pandora. And they’ll present their apps in a Marketplace designed to sell: “The Marketplace features a panoramic design and active merchandising to increase the discoverability of games and applications, and supports one-time credit card purchases, mobile operator billing and advertising-funded applications.” A nice feature: customers will get to try before they buy.
Case in point is HTC’s highly regarded HD2 touchscreen smartphone. A nice little device with a 1GHz Qualcomm processor, a high resolution capacitive touch display, and a five megapixel camera. But, the HD2 has five buttons--Windows Phone 7 says three and no more. No Windows Phone 7 for the HD2!
It is suspected, perhaps, that the HD2 fails in some other ways as well. It’s hard to say, exactly, because the Microsoft hasn’t made public the hardware requirements for Windows Phone 7. That’s expected to happen this month at the MIX developer conference in Las Vegas. Whatever the case, any legacy hardware that doesn’t meet these requirements is going to be left behind.
What little solace Windows Mobile 6.5 users have is that Microsoft says it won’t abandon them. An upgrade, to version 6.5.3, is expected before rebranding to Windows Phone Classic. And Windows Phone Classic will stick around for the “budget-minded smartphone buyer”.
Windows Phone 7 is designed as a “holistic” system that “informs every aspect of the phone.” The Start screen contains “dynamically updated “live tiles”” which show users real-time content. Rather than an icon linking to an application, for example, it can be linked to a person, making all information on that person available through that icon.
Windows Phone 7 provides further integration through “hubs”. According to Microsoft: “Hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks.” Windows Phone 7 includes six hubs: People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace, and Office.
Microsoft says it has partnered with mobile operations, including AT&T, Spring Sprint, and Verizon Wireless, and manufacturers such as Dell, HTC, LG, and Sony Ericsson. The first Windows Phone 7 devices are expected to be on the market by “holiday 2010”. More information can be found at Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 site.