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Windows Mobile 7 offers a bright, fresh look that surprisingly bears no resemblance to the iPhone, unlike its competitors.

The new Windows Mobile 7, set to release this holiday season, essentially acts an Xbox handheld, a Zune video/music player, and phone rolled into one. The Music+Video hub looks almost identitcal to the Microsoft's Zune HD software.  (Source: Microsoft)

The phone also offers a clean, rich RSS-like social network feed akin to the new Google Buzz service.  (Source: Microsoft)
New mobile OS from Microsoft to launch this holiday season, hardware will be consistently high quality

There's a sort of beautiful symmetry in Microsoft's mobile phone operating system announcement which aired today at the 2010 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  Holiday season 2009 Microsoft unleashed Windows 7, a desktop operating system that turned people's preconceptions upside down and fueled unprecedented sales.  This year it will look to do the same, with the release of Windows Mobile 7.

Forget the talk of delays (okay, so the OS will land almost in 2011), forget all the complaints about the past Windows Mobile operating systems, forget Microsoft's slipping market share; you need to look at Windows Mobile with a fresh set of eyes because it is completely different.

The first surprise is in the base operating system.  The past Windows Mobile operating system code base is about to become officially retired, relegated to some forgotten change management repository.  In its place will be an entirely new mobile phone operating system built atop the existing OS on Microsoft's Zune MP3 players.

In that respect Windows Mobile 7 could be hailed as the long awaited "Zune phone" as it shares much of the look of the Zune, with bright, flat square icons, large text and nary a chiclet in site.  The look provides the first true alternative to the iPhone (competitors like Palm and Google have largely emulated Apple's chiclet grid look) and will likely appeal to many customers.

Microsoft's phone is built around six key hubs -- People, Pictures, Games, Music+Video, Marketplace, and Office -- each a colorful and unique digital playground. 

People will stream updates from Facebook and Windows Live, sort of like a RSS feed on steroids (or the recently unveiled Google Buzz).  Despite the reinvention, people will find scraps of similarity; the Music+Video hub is virtually identical to the software on the Zune HD.  It incorporates a music/video store, a media player, and mild social networking.

Games is another place people will find familiar looks.  Games is essentially Microsoft's long awaited mobile Xbox handheld.  With the iPhone tearing up game sales charts, its clear that this is long overdue.

Marketplace will be Microsoft's rival to the App store.  Here's a surprise -- no past Windows Mobile apps will work on the phone or be in the store.  That's right, unlike some (Palm), Microsoft's OS reinvention includes wiping the slate clean with apps.  That downside is that means less apps and some unhappy developers, the upside is that customers can expect cleaner, fresher applications.  Another slight surprise is that there will be no desktop Syncing other than standard Zune syncing; everything else will be done over the air.

Office and Pictures are much like you'd expect -- a photo gallery, and a promising, improved portable version of Microsoft's Office software. 

Another critical piece of the interface is the browser -- the browser will be a multi-touch version of Internet Explorer.  While it's no shocker that it's not blazing fast given how slow its desktop brethren are, the browser still looks pretty nice.  And you can bet Opera and Mozilla already have faster browsers in the works. 

Email will be handled through a mobile Outlook client that looks to be a fusion of beauty and efficiency in a tight package.  The client has full support for Microsoft Exchange.

Microsoft is opting for an approach somewhere in between Apple's as its past mobile phone approach when it comes to hardware.  Previously it had virtually no restrictions.  Now, it's being choosy. While it still is not designing the phone itself, it has made hardware guidelines extremely strict.  Every phone must meet certain speed requirements, support multitouch, have a Bing button (for quick searching), have an FM radio built in, and meet battery life requirements.  Certain alterations, such as custom skins (like HTC's), are banned.

In short Windows Mobile 7 looks to be another dynamic holiday launch for Microsoft.  Former Microsoft VP Dick Brass (see his recent criticism) better be taking note -- because this new phone OS is arguably the most revolutionary thing to happen to the phone market since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007.  Looks like Apple might finally have a true fight on its hands for the title of trendiest smart phone.

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RE: Ballmer's done.
By Donkeyshins on 2/15/2010 12:54:02 PM , Rating: 2
How about this one: Jobs succeds precisely because he doesn't listen to some "customers". He just develops stuff he feels "right" and he polishes it to perfection by investing as much time and money as he feels is necessary to make it "right".

That's worked great for the steaming turds that are Apple TV and iPad.

While at the same time MS thinks its "customers" may give it ideas for its next product. Okay, so MS followed its customers, improved things in Zune, WinMo, IE and stuff... and is still losing ground. How come? ;) Aren't they supposed to gain market share quickly past few years? What happened man? Did they just stop listening to their customers? Why

I would argue that this has more to do with the fact that "iPod" has become synonymous with "MP3 player" for the vast majority of people the same as "Google" has become synonymous with "Internet Search Engine". Not because Apple (or Google) invented the technology, but more because they really nailed it and have been (to a certain extent) coasting on the name recognition.

And I agree with you - fire Ballmer (and figure out if MS can bring back Jeff Raikes from the Gates Foundation as the new CEO).

RE: Ballmer's done.
By Pirks on 2/15/2010 2:59:42 PM , Rating: 1
That's worked great for the steaming turds that are Apple TV and iPad
Trying to pwn a product that nobody has public sales data for and another product that has not even been released? Is that all you got? :))) hehe

RE: Ballmer's done.
By sxr7171 on 2/15/2010 3:47:17 PM , Rating: 2
Apple TV is a failure. iPad would be a failure but yeah the Apple hype machine has helped it tremendously. What it takes is one good Android based tablet and some common sense among consumers.

RE: Ballmer's done.
By scrapsma54 on 2/15/2010 8:07:35 PM , Rating: 2
Everytime I see Ballmer and he says developers, I keep thinking he is going burst out and start ranting about them.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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