was live in New York City this morning presenting (video) its brand new
Windows Phone 7 smartphone operating system, and while there are a
few minor rough edges the results look quite impressive. Below
we outline a quick overview of the platform and then dive into
hardware and software details.OverviewWindows
Phone 7 enters a market in which Android is the rising star and a
pair of veteran players (Apple and RIM) cling to large market shares,
thanks to unique niches (business, entertainment). Having seen
the Windows Phone 7 in action and contrasting the experience to
Android, iOS, and BlackBerry OS, we feel the that WP7 has the
potential to do very well.It may be too early to say for
sure, but Microsoft's decision to redesign the interface from the
ground up seems a very wise one. Scrapping the stale Windows
Mobile 6.5, the company now has a fast, intuitive-seeming interface
laid over a solid set of hardware and software.The OS really
shines at business productivity, so we could see it snatching some
marketshare from RIM among the business-minded. The phone also
seems very slick in terms of entertainment and social connectivity.
This may help it to compete with Android and Apple's iOS, or at least
differentiate itself as more versatile than the RIM's BlackBerry
phones.Windows Phone 7 Launches on November 8th in the U.S.,
as previously rumored. In addition, most WP7 phones will
be available for $199.99 with new 2-year contract. In
the U.S. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint have all be confirmed as
launch partners (Verizon will likely have WP7 handsets as well, but
was not mentioned specifically). Abroad, Vodafone (UK) and
Orange (France) were among the carriers mentioned in Microsoft's
presentation.Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the release event
commented, "I've been looking forward to this day for some time
I say."We can see why. Windows Phone 7 is pretty
revolutionary in that it's definitely a "different kind of
phone" as Microsoft's presentation billed it, in terms of
interface at least. And while it remains to be seen how
competitive it can truly be, it seems a vast leap from the weak
Windows Mobile experience.HardwareAt the
launch event, Microsoft stated that there would be nine handsets
available at launch and mentioned explicitly four partners -- Dell,
Samsung, LG, HTC. A fifth hardware partner, ASUSTek, was
previously announced by Microsoft, but was not discussed at the
presentation.AT&T CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer
Markets was on hand to personally introduce the three WP7 handsets
that will be available on his network at launch.First up is
the LG Quantum. AT&T's WP7 slider, the Quantum packs a 1
GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 3.5-inch capacitive touch
screen, 16 GB of flash memory, and a QWERTY keyboard. The
second handset shown was the HTC Surround, a phone similar to the HTC
EVO geared towards the "media and gaming enthusiast".
Like the EVO, the phone packs a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon, but it
packs a slightly smaller 3.8-inch touch screen and lower resolution 5
megapixel camera. Like the EVO it will feature a kickstand, but
unlike the EVO it will feature 16 GB of flash instead of microSD
expansion (it's possible this will be included, but it wasn't
mentioned). But the handset does have one very cool feature
that differentiates it from the EVO -- it is the first phone to have
dual surround sound speakers (made by Dolby Labs), which slide up out
of the central body.Last, but not least, is the Samsung
Focus, which AT&T claims has "best looking screen on any
Windows phone". The 4-inch screen uses Samsung's SuperIM
OLED technology. It packs a 1 GHz Snapdragon, a 5 MP camera,
and a slightly smaller 8 GB of flash memory.If you've noticed
a trend (1 GHz processors) in these models, it's because Microsoft's
hardware spec requires all WP7 handsets to have a 1
GHz processor. That's a bit different than Android's approach.
It may hurt Microsoft among entry level buyers, but on the other hand
it may provide WP7 users with a better, more consistent
experience.A couple of other handsets were not shown off at
the release event, but have popped online. T-Mobile
will be getting the HTC Mozart, a 8MP camera with Xenon flash,
one-speaker Dolby Mobile with SRS Wow HD for "virtual surround
sound", and 8 GB of flash storage. It's also getting the
beastly HTC 7 HD7, a 4.3-inche device featuring 16GB of storage and a
5MP camera. The carrier also has a 4.1-inch ruggedized vertical
slider, the Dell Venue Pro.Sprint is getting its own slider,
dubbed the HTC 7 Pro. This handset features a 1GHz Snapdragon
processor and 16 GB of storage.Looking at the seven revealed
WP7 handsets in summary, it seems that they are quite consistent on a
hardware basis with the chief difference being the inclusion of a
keyboard, size of the flash memory, screen size, camera resolution,
and surround sound (or lack there of).Looking at the hardware
overall, if microSD is indeed not supported, it will be quite
disappointing. Lack of expandable memory is a key downside for
Apple and a key upside for Google's Android. Otherwise,
the hardware platform looks to be very competitive with Android
handsets, with many models having specs superior to those of the Apple
SoftwareIf there was one
compelling reason to buy a WP7 handset it would have to be the
interface.Microsoft has deeply integrated search via Bing
into the interface and has designed a quick and intuitive UI.
Looking at the home screen, you will notice many square tiles known
as Hubs. Many of the tiles seem intuitive -- Messages, Phone
Calls, Email, etc. While these may be similar to icons in other
smartphone operating systems, they're a bit different in that they're
all animated. In this respect, they're perhaps most similar to
Android's widgets.You can turn your contacts into a tile on
the homepage sprawl. You can also unpin any tile by simply
touching, holding, then clicking the upper right corner of the tile.
This lays to rest a false rumor that the homescreen in WP7 would not
be customizable. You can move tiles by then touching, holding,
and dragging.In terms of business functionality, the phone
includes some slick features. For example, your next
appointment shows up on the home screen so you don't even have to
unlock your phone. Emails suggesting appointments come with a
one-touch option to check for conflicts. You can sync
appointments from Exchange servers, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and
more.Email brings us to another key point -- typing.
Typing looks to be a pretty fast experience as Microsoft includes a
pretty souped up autocorrect. Typing quick bursts of a few
sentences looks to be possibly a bit faster than in Android, and on
par with Apple's leading interface in this department. Of
course, once you've scribbled out a few sentences, you'll often have
to go back and tweak the autocorrections. Microsoft has a few
good ideas here -- for example the original word that was
autocorrected from is stored and can be reverted.Also
involved with the email experience is addresses. Addresses can
be clicked to bring up Bing Maps. These maps tell you the best
way to get there (walking/driving), let you get directions, and even
show you satellite views.Search can be done in two ways.
First you can press and hold the start button and speak to the
phone. The audio is transmitted to Microsoft's servers and
Microsoft's "Tell Me" backend then tries to parse it into a
search query. A second approach is to press the search button
and then type in the Bing search bar that pops up.Microsoft
showed off a mobile version of Powerpoint -- part of a WP7 Office
suite. Sadly, copy and paste has been confirmed to be absent,
so editing in mobile Word or Powerpoint will likely be an onerous
task. Microsoft also showed off OneNote -- the WP7 version of
its Office note-taking software -- and demonstrated how it syncs your
notes to the cloud. These notes can be accessed from anywhere
on the internet.Picture-taking on the phone looks a bit more
intuitive that in Android. If you press the camera button the
phone automatically wakes up and shoots, no unlocking required.
We could see this as causing some unwanted "pocket pictures",
but then again it should offer faster photos. Photos can be set
to automatically upload to cloud storage on sites like
Facebook.Look at Music and Videos, the interface is very
similar to Zune's. Third parties can design plug-ins that offer
up new elements in this plug. Slacker Radio and YouTube were
among those shown in the presentation.Turning to the "People"
tab, Microsoft syncs contacts from multiple places -- Facebook,
Gmail, Exchange, and more. The second you log in one of these
accounts, the syncing process starts. This may be a bit
problematic for some. Say you have 500 Facebook friends, but
most of those are high school classmates and college friends you only
vaguely knew. ALL of them will be added to your phone's
contacts. So you might want to be wary of what accounts you log
into (i.e. watch out for Facebook) unless Microsoft has some sort
filtering scheme that it hasn't revealed yet.Turning last to
games, the phone should offer an Xbox Live-like experience, with
Gaming invites, avatars, multiplayer gaming, and more.
Microsoft showed off a couple titles, including a WP7-version of
EA's The Sims.In terms of apps, it's to be expected that
Microsoft won't have as huge a catalog as Android or Apple at
launch. However, it did show off some cool third party apps.
For example AT&T will be offering its customers a Uverse app,
which will allow you to watch TV shows on the go. Non-Uverse
subscribers can pay a "small [monthly] fee" according to
Mr. de la Vega to access this option.One final note -- it appears that multitasking will be available in some form (at least via notifications) given the stream of live feeds from multiple apps on the home screen. However, Microsoft did not mention that true multitasking (freely switchable-apps) would be present. Further no third party app tiles were shown to be updating with live feeds, so it seems likely that the previous rumor that third-party multitasking would not initially be included may be true.Looking at the
demonstrated software (operating system, third-party) in overview,
Microsoft clearly will lag behind Apple and Google in volume, but it
makes up for it somewhat in quality. The only egregious
omission hear is copy and paste, and that will be coming early 2011
according to Microsoft. Otherwise, the interface looks polished
and the software seems very business/connectivity
friendly.ConclusionsThere's the bad (lack of
microSD, no copy and paste) and there's the good (the interface, the
wide array of hardware options, and the cross-carrier availability)
when it comes to Windows Phone 7.Ultimately, while Microsoft
has claimed in the past to be "following in Apple's line"
with Windows Phone 7, it actually is following both Apple and Google
in some regards. In terms of hardware and carriers its taking
Google's diversified approach, but in terms of interface and feature
support its taking Apple's more detail-oriented/refined approach.
That focus on details can largely be blamed for missing features like
copy and paste, but it can also be credited for the overall ease of
use.In these respects Windows Phone 7 is like a strange
fusion of Android and iOS. However, it offers its own unique
style as well, when it comes to looks. With its smart phone market share plunging, Microsoft desperately needed a strong product -- and it looks like it just might have delivered one. Windows Phone 7 should be a worthy
competitor when it hits the market on November 8.
quote: I really can't imagine anyone buying one of these at launch...they're repeating every mistake Apple made.
quote: Don't even try to deny that the iPhone wouldn't have been better if they hadn't left off a rather absurd amount of features. IMO it's never really worth getting an Apple product since it seems they purposely gimp there products so they can sell newer/better revisions later. That doesn't sit well with me even if most don't care.
quote: The iPhone is following the same pattern. In 2007 it debuted with no third-party apps, no 3G networking, and a maximum storage capacity of 8GB. One year later, Apple had doubled storage, added 3G and GPS, and opened the App Store. The year after that, Apple swapped in a faster processor, added a compass and an improved camera, and doubled storage again. The pattern repeats. We may never see an iPhone that utterly blows away the prior year’s, but we’ll soon have one that utterly blows away the original iPhone.
quote: You can argue looks all day, but functionality wise it couldn't be beat.
quote: You can move tiles by then touching, holding, and dragging.
quote: In terms of business functionality, the phone includes some slick features. For example, your next appointment shows up on the home screen so you don't even have to unlock your phone.
quote: You can sync appointments from Exchange servers, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, and more.
quote: Email brings us to another key point -- typing. Typing looks to be a pretty fast experience as Microsoft includes a pretty souped up autocorrect. Typing quick bursts of a few sentences looks to be possibly a bit faster than in Android, and on par with Apple's leading interface in this department. Of course, once you've scribbled out a few sentences, you'll often have to go back and tweak the autocorrections. Microsoft has a few good ideas here -- for example the original word that was autocorrected from is stored and can be reverted.
quote: Also involved with the email experience is addresses. Addresses can be clicked to bring up Bing Maps. These maps tell you the best way to get there (walking/driving), let you get directions, and even show you satellite views.
quote: Picture-taking on the phone looks a bit more intuitive that in Android. If you press the camera button the phone automatically wakes up and shoots, no unlocking required. We could see this as causing some unwanted "pocket pictures", but then again it should offer faster photos. Photos can be set to automatically upload to cloud storage on sites like Facebook.