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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  • Pirks - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    hahaha I can imagine how reader1 laughs right now at all the PC loving idiots who bashed his closed platform prophesies. now look idiots where MS itself is moving! eat that dumbo winfanatics! hehehe hahaha cool!! :))) Reply
  • Dainas - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    The biggest problem with Windows mobile, (besides the horrid performance).... was how you had to pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan here to do this, or pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan pan there to do that. THIS LOOKS FRICKEN WORSE, ITS STILL NOT WINDOWS.... Windows 3.0 was better and easier to navigate than windows mobile, cannot wait to see how microsoft will fail at surpassing it again.

    It looks like you still cannot do a thing without panning for an half and hour because your relegated to looking at a tiny spyhole on the operating system. And no, the resolution of smartphones is not an excuse, windows xp works fine at 800x600.
    Reply
  • Tanclearas - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    Honestly, I was shocked to learn that Microsoft felt they couldn't update the UI without breaking compatibility. HTC gave them a really good start to show how it can be done.

    I definitely fall into the category of "if I have to change anyway, then I might as well look at all my options". The real risk MS is running is with businesses that are looking at their options right now. They might choose to make the switch to one of the competitors rather than a) stick with a platform MS has killed (WM Classic) or b) gamble on an incomplete, unknown solution.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    Just a new GUI wont remedy the huge pile of shit windows mobile is, so MS did the right thing. WM was mainly a business product anyway and one that kept losing ground to RIM at lightspeed. Can as well kick that garbage to the curb and finally embrace the consumer with a proper mobile OS. Way to go Microsoft!

    I for one am looking forward to it. Its now between android and series 7 to replace my iphone 3G, since i'm no longer interested in apples upcoming phones.
    Reply
  • Tanclearas - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    I couldn't disagree more. While there are issues with the underlying OS, the UI was by far the biggest reason to choose something else. When someone is showing off the iPhone, what exactly are they doing? Showing off the UI. "Look how it scrolls when I flick my thumb/finger! Look how it reacts when I tilt/shake it!" When they talk about Windows Mobile, what is the first thing they ridicule it for? "You have to use a stylus?"

    I just honestly can't believe there wasn't a solution that allowed MS to correct the single biggest issue, without breaking compatibility with existing apps, and while starting a migration process to an improved underlying OS. If I wanted to go with a company with a proven track record of ditching its previous users, then I would have gone with Apple.

    The fact that you are considering a completely untested and unfinished platform for you to replace your iPhone indicates you either haven't been involved in the tech world very long, or haven't learned from the mistakes of millions.

    Good luck.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - link

    While WM6 doesn't actually require use of a stylus, IMO the entire UI did need to be redone. Quite simply, it behaves too much like a collection of disjointed programs. Just the fact that something as simply as the alarm clock is done poorly, and launching a replacement alarm clock can take several seconds, is a indication of how much needs an overhaul in the UI. Really, when the best thing that can be said about the OS is that it allows other programs to run, you have issues.

    That said, if the new Phone7 doesn't allow multitasking I won't even consider it.
    Reply
  • Thermogenic - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    "As it stands, social interaction with Xbox Live community takes place exclusively on the console itself; the experience is tethered to the TV."

    This is not correct - the Live community is also accessible from Games for Windows Live.
    Reply
  • nerdtalker - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

    You're indeed correct ;)

    I guess what I should have noted was that the experience is still ultimately tethered to either the desktop (through Games for Windows) or the console. If I'm not mistaken, there's some loose ability to interact through the web interface, but still that isn't entirely desirable.

    Even then, I've noticed through playing Halo 2 PC and a few other Games for Windows Live titles that the experience is relatively segmented; your gamerscore goes up, sure, and you can see those achievements from either side, but you can't say play Halo 2 games with people on Xbox 1. That, and I don't think they've seen the community on the PC side grow as much due to the whole subscription situation. It's a good thing for PC gamers that already have a gold account, but won't draw in PC gamers already used to free online play or for pay through a clan with a dedi slice.

    I guess what I meant to say was that the experience is constrained to the household; it isn't mobile. What Phone 7 Series might be able to do is finally expand that out into the mobile realm so you can take that same online persona with you everywhere.

    I mean, we could really start speculating and wonder whether there'll be direct phone->Xbox 360 functionality. Who knows?

    Cheers,
    Brian
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    Yep. I'm half surprised Brian didn't know that. Regardless, extending it into their mobile phones would be a smart move. Especially if you can access your Live content on the go - if some XBLA developers port over their existing games, I'm sold. Castle Crashers on Phone 7 would rock, for example. For relatively simple games made with XNA it shouldn't be too difficult, given a sufficiently powerful phone. Reply
  • gaiden2k7 - Monday, February 22, 2010 - link

    First of all, I'm so glad MS was able to see through what they done before wasn't working. WinMo UI before reminds me alot of BB UI very plain and text-based. But WinMo 7, this is so minimalist so simple with its words like tiles and pivots and hubs it's more google-ish than what google tries to do with android! Second of all, there is no doubt MS will be tying up its other toys with the phone: MS Office (when it gets the patent rights sort out), Bing search is cool, and gaming under xbox live is most interesting to me. Android lacks in gaming and has been one of its weakest link to buyers like me (owns N1 atm). But with these Tegra 2 WinMo7 phones on the horizon there is new phone in gaming phones other than iPhone! Reply

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