After much excitement and expectation, Microsoft finally unleashed its “Tron-like” Windows Phone 7 Series Operating System on the world at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (the term series apparently refers to the phones that will be announced throughout the year, not a variety of OS flavours as in the past).
What is immediately apparent is the look and feel. The main takeaway is that the phone is of secondary importance, with all the focus on the interface. The design and layout of 7 Series' UI (internally called Metro) is original, utilizing what lead project designer(Albert Shum, formerly of Nike) called an "authentically digital" and "chrome-less" experience. Microsoft has been praised for moving away from the stamping its PC legacy all over the OS as in the past, with only a single hardware button indicating it’s a Windows Phone at all.
First impressions are positive-the simplicity leaves the user feeling that the OS is fast and responsive, but there are nagging doubts surrounding what Microsoft has stripped out to make this OS snappy-and clearly the OS won’t be compatible with earlier phones given the high specs that Microsoft will demand of its OEM partners.
The new system, centres on "hubs" designed for specific tasks. For example, Windows Mobile 7 Series' People Hub aggregates social networking and email contacts, from Facebook, Windows Live, and webmail accounts among others, enabling the user to interact with their friends across multiple media through a single application."
Microsoft’s launch has been slick and polished-with the fickle majority now saying that the death of Microsoft’s mobile business has been greatly exaggerated.
Certainly the key features are all core consumer in nature: Zune integration and XBox Live integration as well as social networking integration for popular sites such as Facebook. Enterprise is still catered for, but less detail was forthcoming outside the “Office Hub”that was announced. It has been suggested that many non-business users that bought a Windows Mobile phone in the past had no idea who manufactured the phone. However, OEMs aligned with the WP7S launch may see their brand stand out more with an OS that is less obviously has “this is a Windows Phone” stamped all over the UI.
Nevertheless, questions remain:
- Lack of clarity on hardware OEM reference designs
- No surprises in OEM partner line-up (does this really mean a chance for Dell and HP to get into this market-I’m not sure)
- Lack of detail on .net CF framework (core for development and enterprise) and what functionality has been stripped out to sharpen OS responsiveness.
- Backwards compatibility and multitasking
- Business Integration with UC and the Cloud: Azure and OCS
What is clear is that a Microsoft mobile OS will finally sit in a (hopefully) compelling set of devices to go up against Android, Symbian and the new iPhone for the Q4 holiday season. For enterprises, if precious little plumbing has been stripped from the OS, then this could be a very interesting platform for business as well.