Gaming, Gaming, Gaming

But perhaps most interesting is what role Xbox Live will play on this platform, which is prominently featured on the main start screen: 

Interestingly enough, Microsoft was light on details when it came to how games, Xbox Live, and social networking are going to be integrated on the platform. Perhaps one of the most interesting lessons learned from the iPhone OS' App Store is just how much potential mobile gaming has. It's apparent that Microsoft understands that, and Windows Mobile 7 Series is part of an attempt to grab some of the growing smartphone gaming segment. In many ways, the iPhone is an established console in a gaming market that Microsoft is now entering 2 years late. Microsoft did it before, releasing Xbox a full year and 20 days after the PS2 debut, but time will tell whether the metaphor extends to a similar conclusion.

Microsoft has the interesting potential here of being able to leverage both Xbox Live and its connection with existing gaming industry partners to possibly deliver a unique experience the other platforms can't. Exactly what that is remains to be seen but ultimately the tightness of integration might make or break the Phone 7 series. At the very least, it will make or break the platform's draw as a mobile gaming contender. In its current incarnation, the games tab isn't fully fleshed out. In fact, the demonstration avatar shown on Monday was a static placeholder - the final release will feature the owner's fully animated 3D Xbox Live avatar: 

It's little things like these that ultimately will define how Phone 7 Series differentiates itself from the competition. Perhaps an even bigger question is how Microsoft will leverage existing developers accustomed to developing for Xbox 360 or Windows Mobile. Already, details have leaked revealing that applications for Phone 7 Series will be developed using a combination of Silverlight, XNA, and .NET compact frameworks. XNA tools should stand out in particular given the preexisting community of both major corporate and indie developers accustomed to using it to create software for the Xbox 360 and Zune. Needless to say, having the same framework on Phone 7 Series makes it ripe with potential to become a serious foray into mobile gaming. No doubt more will be revealed March 15th at MIX10.  

Of course, Microsoft already has a formidable and established online platform for consoles through Xbox Live, complete with its own social community. That said, at present users are restricted to a mere 100 friends, a limitation imposed entirely by legacy Xbox Live titles. Is it coincidence then that legacy support for Xbox Live is being discontinued this April? Could Xbox Live integration on Phone 7 Series somehow have forced Microsoft's hand? It seems more than likely that this is the case. 

Already, the platform is facing pressure from a variety of independent developers devising their own solutions for delivering mobile online gaming. Take a look at Gameloft Live:

Server Browser

N.O.V.A. - FPS Title on iPhone OS

The success of this and other similar titles demonstrates that there's a huge market for online games on the smartphone. Even over 3G networks where latency is always a few hundred milliseconds. Microsoft clearly understands that presence in the mobile marketplace is critical for building out a community that will then invest in traditional consoles.

There's potential in the execution here. As it stands, social interaction with Xbox Live community takes place exclusively on the console itself; the experience is tethered to the TV. A platform allowing gamers to communicate, interact, and game online at the same time through their smartphones could be game-changing indeed. Obviously, if Microsoft delivers a phone targeted at consumers that sits right at the crossroads of mobile gaming, social network integration, and basic productivity, we could have something revolutionary. It could be the mobile platform for gamers Apple, Sony, and Nintendo can only dream about.

Lessons From Windows Mobile Microsoft's App Store
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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
  • jms102285 - Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - link

    And I failed at proof-reading. Go me.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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 :)
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 - link

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

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