If you haven’t heard about Windows Phone 7 Series yet, you should check it out. It’s a marked departure from previous Windows variants, which have changed very little from Palm PC to Pocket PC to Windows Mobile. It uses a brand-new interface akin to the latest Windows Media Center and Zune designs, some of which can be seen in the new dashboard of the Xbox 360. It foregos the standard desktop or application list design in favor of a series of interactive tiles which are dynamically animated as updates occur. Transitions are smooth as the user touches and slides into new panels of information.
The result of this latest incarnation is an elegant device that is targeted squarely at the average consumer. One has to wonder if this desire to make an operating system that is more accessible to the layman will alienate the base that built up around Windows Mobile – namely, business and power users looking for a mobile computer with a great deal of flexibility and connectivity options. Microsoft had said in the past that Windows Mobile 6.5 would persist after the arrival of Windows Phone 7, which seems to make some sense now. While the new Windows Phone experience looks promising, it doesn’t appear to be the best option for business users, at least at first glance.
A large part of the new phone is Zune, Xbox Live, and social networking (i.e. Facebook) integration. The media player looks essentially identical to the Zune HD, and the games will allow achievement points toward an Xbox Live gamertag. But as fun as all that sounds, large questions remain. There has been very little mention of third-party program development, and no Windows Mobile applications for older versions will work with the new system. There also doesn’t seem to be “multitasking” in a true sense, which could be a pretty pivotal step backward for a mobile Windows OS. And the ease of basic functions like copying and pasting is also undetermined. But there will undoubtedly be more revealed about these issues in the coming months.
One has to applaud Microsoft’s complete and utter overhaul of the system; they’re certainly taking some risks here, rather than just trying to do one better than the competition. But there’s still a long time to go until the Holiday 2010 release of Windows Phone 7 Series, and it will be a hard fight for Microsoft to retake the ground they’ve lost to the iPhone OS and newcomer Android. Fortunately, it seems that Microsoft has finally done what they needed to do all along: integrate all of their core properties to make a killer device. Xbox, Zune, Bing, Office…and Internet Explorer? That’s a recipe for success.