Today, Microsoft announced "Windows Phone 7 Series", featuring a completely new edition to the long infamous Windows Mobile operating system. It looks modern, polished, graphically exciting and nothing like the tiny windows 95 that we have been used to seeing.
It seems that Microsoft has finally realized that a smartphone is not about creating an operating system. Instead, it is about what you do with it, and how that works.
It looks like a Zune phone, and let's not forget that the Zune actually works brilliantly. The people who have one, generally like how it looks and feel.
Here is short video of how it looks:
And another by Albert Shum, Director of Mobile Experience Design, about the "vision behind it."
The Windows Phone 7 will also come with a physical button that will open Bing, a rather poor decision because it is not future proof. A button that opens a browser would be useful, but not a specific site. It's the wrong thing to do.
The phone is divided into 6 "hubs," which are, as Microsoft puts it:
People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.
Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user's photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person's entire picture and video collection.
Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer's avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games, and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.
Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user's PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.
Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.
Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world's leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit, and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive, and up-to-date while on the go.
Altogether, this is a rather dramatic step away from the old Windows Mobile.
But, not everything is likable, and Windows Phone 7 Series is absolutely no threat to either the iPhone or the Android phones.
First of all, there is the name "Windows Phone 7 Series"... It is impossible to say out loud. Didn't anyone at the meeting try to say it quickly three times in a row? They should have called it the "Zune Phone" or something.
It might not sound like that big a deal, but actually is. It makes the phone hard to market and share. It a very long name, you cannot incorporate it into a proper sentence, and it got "Windows" in it - completely missing the point, that the phone is not about "the operating system"
The second problem is far bigger. The great about the iPhone and the Android is that they provide a platform. They come loaded with some amazing default applications, but which can then be expanded far beyond what the phone is initially capable of.
The Android is the best one at this, because of it allows you to not only load new apps on it, but also add useful widgets to the home screen. That is incredibly useful.
Windows Phone 7 Series also support 3rd party apps, and quite a bit of customization, but by creating these 6 hubs, they are directly discouraging 3rd party apps from making a successful entry.
This is the strong point of both the iPhone and the Android. Both are very capable phones that focuses on how to use, and completely removes focus from the operating system behind it. But, they are also primarily a great platform. They are great out of the box, but they encourage people to extend them - to do more with them.
The Windows Phone 7 Series is also a very capable phone that removes focus from the operating system. But, it also removes the platform because the phone experience is so tightly put together in these hubs.
Notice: Microsoft actually argues against independent apps, because it means you have to launch separate apps, to get your work done. This is a valid point, because this is definitely a problem on the iPhone. But the problem with integrated experiences is that it gets very hard to extend by third parties. And the real success of the iPhone is what other people have done with it. Not what Apple did "out-of-the-box"
Microsoft is kind of getting it. The phone system is a million times better than the old Windows Mobile. But we have to see how it actually works with third party apps. It is extendable, and it does come with its own App Store - but there seem to be no real "home" for the apps you put on it. It is like 3rd party apps are some kind of secondary element.
In short. Microsoft is finally beginning to understand the mobile market, but they still doesn't seem to understand why Google and Apple is winning.
How the close the Windows 7 Phone Series is to the Zune HD experience.
Notice: Update 2
A hands on video shows that it is not quite there yet. Many things aren't really working, device not responding right, things not loading... etc.
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