Next generation Windows Phones are within the reach of our hands, Redmond-based software company Microsoft stated on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona when unveiling to the world the Windows Phone 7 Series and Windows Phone OS 7.0. What the announcement promises is a new beginning, a new experience, and a set of new smartphones that will not be only upgraded versions of the already existing ones. There is a new approach to the end user experience, with the inclusion of six hubs, the integration of various services, and with the promise of a strong ecosystem that will mark a step forward in the evolution of smartphones and mobile operating systems, all of which are meant to change the way we see smartphones today.
Most of the previous rumors on the new mobile operating system from Microsoft proved true in the end, but the manner in which the software giant brings all that stuff to reality is unexpected. As the company unveiled yesterday, the upcoming Windows Phone 7 Series devices will come with Zune services integration, as well as with Xbox LIVE support. Every “Windows Phone 7 Series device is a Zune,” is what Joe Belfiore, vice president, Windows Phone, stated on the stage in Barcelona. But this is not all. The services included in each of the handsets running under Windows Phone OS 7.0 are put together in the aforementioned hubs, which are the main focuses of the new platform: People, Pictures, Games, Music and Video, Marketplace and Office. These should change the focus from applications to services and the capabilities of the device, and there will also be stricter hardware requirements for these handsets.
“In order to preserve a consistently great customer experience, Windows Phone 7 Series will be available on fewer hardware configurations than previous releases. However, we do expect a broad set of partners to deliver a wide range of device choices,” a Microsoft spokesperson stated when asked to comment on the matter. This confirms previous reports on a “Windows Mobile 7 chassis,” which was discussed a lot last year, and which unveiled that each future Windows Phone would have to include a minimum of hardware specs to run the new OS.
Moreover, it seems that there will be five hardware buttons that all Windows Phone 7 Series handsets will include, namely Start, Bing, Back, Power and Camera, the first three of which will be present on the front of the device. This simple design is expected to provide ease of usage when compared to other form factors and, coupled with the new OS approach should do its job just fine.
“Microsoft and our partners have the desire for better quality and the obvious success of vertical players have proven that better quality can be achieved through deep testing of HW and SW together. We have made three major changes that we think dramatically improve and will allow us to compete with these vertical players. First we have defined the hardware with much more specific requirements to ensure a consistent environment for developers and also to reduce the number of part manufactures we need to support. Second we are working with our OEM partners to have Microsoft write much more of the HW / SW drivers. Third, we have agreed not just to a compatibility test but a Series of quality tests that will ensure that Windows Phone 7 Series phones will meet the high expectations that customers should have from a Windows Phone,” the Microsoft spokesperson said.
While the hardware part of the Windows Phone 7 Series story has been told already, it still remains to be seen what the software part is all about. It seems that MIX10 is the place where Microsoft will make all of it available to the world, and we'll just have to wait for the conference to kick off to learn all the necessary details. However, there are still a few additional pieces of info that emerged into the wild on Windows Phone 7 Series, such as the fact that handset vendors won't be able to throw their own UIs over the operating system, or that the Search button on the front is a Bing button, and that won't change. Some of the existing Xbox games will run on Windows Phone 7 Series handsets, Casey McGee, Microsoft senior marketing manager, said to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, but he refused to comment on the browser in the future handsets, on the apps that will run on the OS or on some other services that Windows Phone users currently enjoy.
The bottom line is that Microsoft promises a big change with Windows Phone 7 Series and with the new OS and the hubs approach, and it might be able to keep that promise in the end. However, we'll still have to see where developers will stand when it comes to the building of applications for the Windows Phone OS 7.0, something that will happen during the MIX10 conference in mid-March, as pointed out a few times before. With a great focus on services, a new approach to the experience a handset can deliver to its owner, and a set of minimum requirements when it comes to the hardware capabilities of future Windows Phone 7 Series handsets, which should arrive before the holiday season 2010, the newly unveiled Windows Phone OS 7.0 should be capable of turning the table in Microsoft's favor on the mobile phone market, one should agree.