2 years, 9 months and 15 days. That's how long it's been since Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shrugged off the competition during an interview after the iPhone's public unveiling, until the announcement of Windows Phone 7 Series at Mobile World Congress. Since then, the smartphone market has rapidly evolved, and Windows Mobile has seen fierce and rapidly evolving competition. We've seen the introduction of two major revisions of Android and iPhone OS, incremental OS updates from RIM with BlackBerry OS, and full-on platform reboots from both Palm and Nokia. All the while, Windows Mobile has remained relatively the same, receiving subtle updates and slowly slipping from being a dominant player with almost 40% market share, to an increasingly marginalized platform showing serious age. 

It isn't much of a leap to see how much a complete platform reboot was needed.

Although the details that have been revealed thus far are relatively scant, it's safe to say one thing - Phone 7 Series is Microsoft's attempt to wipe its mobile platform of Pocket PC heritage, and instead rebuild with a new UI paradigm that does away entirely with the old. Gone are the throwbacks to Windows CE: its stylus driven interface, task manager, implicit multitasking, and start menu.

Instead, they've been replaced with something radically different and refreshing for Microsoft. The Phone 7 Series UI has taken nods from the typographically-driven user interfaces that Microsoft has designed in the past and given it the capacitive multitouch treatment. The Zune HD interface is what most point to (and rightfully so), but this typography-dominated style actually traces all the way back to the interface designed for Windows Media Center, and even borrows UI elements from the NXE Xbox dashboard, according to Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore. Microsoft calls this style codename "Metro."


Although we haven't seen all of it yet, software is grouped into "Hubs." Microsoft has shown People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace, and Office very prominently as examples. The usual suspects are also present: Phone, SMS, Calendar, Email, Internet Explorer, and Bing search + maps. All of these applications have been given a hearty helping of "metro" design; simple rectangular shapes of color on a black background for a relatively spartan yet invitingly simple appearance. By their own admission, much of the experience still isn't fleshed out in its entirety, and placeholders still abound. But Microsoft is being forthcoming here by noting that much more will be shown at MIX10

A chief UI differentiator is the integration of what Microsoft is calling "tiles." Instead of adopting a strictly unitasking workflow, Microsoft hopes to leverage inactive display by using tiles that reflect constantly updated data. Although details are scarce regarding how much freedom developers will have with what can be shown, this functionality is essentially expected to  mitigate the platform's lack of traditional multitasking. 

Microsoft believes so strongly in this UI that they're disallowing modification to it by both carriers and manufacturers. 

Lessons From Windows Mobile
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  • jms102285 - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    I'm pretty excited to see Microsoft go this route. I'm really wondering how Microsoft is going to plan out integrating this with Exchange servers. One of my pet peeves about my current WinMo phone is that it is unable to sync public folders from our exchange server and most of the information that is super important to me is there instead of in my personal folders. Also flipping through my tasks/e-mail/calendars is much too cumbersome, I'd prefer something as an All-in-One package.

    As far as what I'd love to see ideally:
    - Mini or micro USB connection for charging/computer connection. Nothing is more annoying then proprietary charging cables.
    - 3.5mm headphone jack for compatibility with all normal headphones
    - Optional Wi-Fi
    - Support for syncing public folders with Microsoft Exchange

    I almost half wonder if the release of Wave 14 is going to play into this phone. Any word about that Anandtech?
    - Consolidating Tasks/Calendar/E-mail/etc. into one program
    Reply
  • jms102285 - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    And I failed at proof-reading. Go me. Reply
  • krakman - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    I wonder if hooking up your phone to XP still deletes contacts at random, as is the case with 6.1. Reply
  • paulpod - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    Wow, completely missing from the preview of this "phone" is any discussion of how easy it is to make/receive phone calls and send/receive simple text messages. (Especially when that task needs to interrupt all the other nonsensical functionality.)

    Would be funny if the thing comes out and they have to say "Woops, we forgot to put a phone in there."

    But seriously, I was looking at Phone 7 as the first sophisticated phone OS that, in a "Windows-like" manner, considers practical needs like being able to set a permanently large font size for text messaging. Little hope for this type of feature when things like gaming support are taking all the resources.

    Reply
  • nerdtalker - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    Ironically, the reason I really didn't discuss much of the Phone side of Windows Phone 7 Series is because Microsoft admittedly hasn't fleshed out that experience yet.

    The dialer is extremely rudimentary (read: literally just a dialer, no smart dial, no lookup, no contacts, nothing), and the SMS application (which is probably what I'm most interested in) is largely placeholders that demonstrate rotation works.

    There's so little that's been unveiled at this point. Agreed.

    Cheers,
    Brian
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    lol, considering how poorly SMS (or even more, MMS) works on WM6, I would hope they would put some effort into this. Reply
  • nerdtalker - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I would too. One of the big problems with the entire gamut of WM devices I've had (smartphone edition and Pro edition with touchscreen) is that the SMS subsystem will sometimes silently fail sending messages. Or, it'll fail and pop an alert box up under the dialog; you can't see it unless you quit messaging and look for it.

    There's no surer way to frustration because you think you've sent the message, only to discover that both you haven't, and the dialog has stopped notifications of new messages.

    I agree; Phone 7 Series really will be defined by how the phone/messaging alert system interacts with an already abstract UI. Nothing has been shown there, and user-polling the tiles really isn't what I'm hoping for.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, February 25, 2010 - link

    I guess since I am using TF3D and rarely leave the messaging program open I haven't had that problem. Though it will randomly decide to start notifying me a MMS message has failed to send, despite not having tried to send a MMS message. Since it does not integrate with Verizon's system of notification that the other party has actually received a message you never know what has happened though. Reply
  • Stas - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    Who uses iPhone anymore? It died off around my area about 6 months ago. Those that still have theirs, are either waiting till the contract is up, or are looking for a buyer (good luck). Time to embrace progress people, Android is where it's at. I hope WinPhone 7 is good though, as I wouldn't mind better integration with my Windows PCs and good games. Google Voice is pretty much epic, there better be a similar Live! service :) Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    You are truly talking out of your ass if you think the iPhone is going away... Reply

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