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Windows Phone 7's offers a quirky tile homescreen.  (Source: Engadget)

Mobile Microsoft Office on the new OS is plain Jane, but functional.  (Source: Engadget)

Unfortunately, if you connect to Facebook, the OS fills you contacts list with every single Facebook friend, essentially breaking this crucial part of the phone.  (Source: Engadget)
Microsoft seems to be on a good path, but will customers tolerate problem spots?

Terry Myerson, the Microsoft Corporate VP of Windows Phone Engineering who was recently called out on the Microsoft Kin phone debacle, had some good news to report yesterday.  Windows Phone 7 hardware and software has been released in beta form to developers and a handful of reviewers.

Myerson writes:

Starting today, thousands of prototype phones from ASUS, LG and Samsung are making their way into the hands of developers over the next few weeks. Combine that with the beta release of the Windows Phone developer tools, and I can’t wait to see how our developer partners take advantage of our new approach to smart design and integrated mobile experiences. I’m personally working on a flash card app for my daughter, and am consistently amazed by the ease with which Silverlight and Visual Studio make WP7 apps possible.

Early impressions of the phone boil down to that Microsoft seems to be nailing many key elements, but in other places presents conspicuously broken or missing functionality. 

First let's get the bad out of the way.  As widely rumored, Microsoft has not included copy and paste yet.  There is a small chance that this will be included in the final version.  Early reviewers say that text selection is working well -- so it seems baffling that Microsoft would 
not include it.  But at this point that appears to be the case.

Also missing is third-party multitasking, which both Apple's iOS 4 and Google's Android OS currently support (and something that previous iterations of Windows Mobile supported).  That's not to say updates won't be available to various apps, but it does mean that transitions to them may be significantly clunkier.  And Flash web media plugin is missing -- and even stranger still, Microsoft's own Silverlight also isn't implemented.

Finally, perhaps the most egregious sin is that for those with Facebook accounts, if you use your account on the phone, it will pull in your contacts -- all of them.  This makes the contacts list -- an essential part of the phone experience – nearly unusable.

Moving on to the okay, Microsoft has reportedly done an okay job squeezing a hybrid Internet Explorer 7/8 browser into the phone.  Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done.  It doesn't, however, support HTML5. Likewise Microsoft Office is decently implemented, with collaboration functionality.  However, Office programs lack key functionality (no font selection in Word, etc.) and PowerPoint editing is absent.

Likewise SMS/MMS texts and email appear to be done proficiently.  The messaging interface is a bit hard to follow as all the text bubbles are the same color -- whether you sent them, or received them.  And email has no threaded organization, though it does have a helpful filter for unread messages.

Then there's the good.  The home hub seems to be very well integrated and more innovative and informative than Apple's home screen (at least), if not Android's.  Likewise the camera is receiving a lot of TLC, which results in both faster image capture times and a nice interface for pictures.

The touch keyboard is also reportedly fantastic -- at least as good as the iPhone's, which is saying something.  Likewise the built-in Zune player could also be viewed as a fantastic addition.  If you aren't into music, don't use it.  If you are, pony up the $14.95 a month and you'll be treated to an almost limitless library of on-demand music -- a true value.

A lot of how people are reacting to Windows Phone 7 appears to be based on their own preconceptions.  
Boy Genius Report wrote a rather scathing review of the OS.  Paul Thurrott's Windows SuperSite, an obvious Microsoft supporter, on the other hand, wrote a praise-filled review of it.  And Engadget -- somewhat of a neutral party -- wrote a mixed review.

Ultimately, customers will likely react to the phones in a similar fashion if Microsoft is unable to fill in the holes before its holiday launch.  The promise is certainly there, but is it worth passing up Apple and Google's compelling options? 

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RE: beta phone
By mcnabney on 7/19/2010 9:58:11 AM , Rating: -1
Mark my words, this time next year Phone 7 will be going the way of phone implementations of WebOS. Sorry MS, too little - too late. What are all those billions in OS and Office profits good for anyway?

RE: beta phone
By StevoLincolnite on 7/19/2010 10:19:34 AM , Rating: 2
Mark my words, this time next year Phone 7 will be going the way of phone implementations of WebOS.

How do you know? The product IS NOT released yet!

Heck, even the iPhone 4 has been selling well despite it's problems, so if they nail this at-least decently it could do really well in the market place.

And you know something? I hope they do well, competition brings out the best in most company's.

RE: beta phone
By PAPutzback on 7/19/2010 10:35:41 AM , Rating: 3
The iPhone is selling well because of the fan base. If people had waited for a review first I imagine many would have sat on the sidelines to see how Apple was going to respond. I depend on my phone, so I waited for the reviews of the EVO before I jumped. The only negative was the battery. I decided that wasn't a show stopper and just ordered a bigger battery and a couple more micro usb charging cables.

RE: beta phone
By StevoLincolnite on 7/19/2010 11:45:28 AM , Rating: 3
The iPhone is selling well because of the fan base.

I think a large part of that would actually come from Advertising, it's like back in the Netburst days... AMD had a superior alternative, but Intel still out-sold AMD significantly, despite being slower, having hotter processors, and costing the same if not more. (Does AMD even Advertise?)

RE: beta phone
By Alexstarfire on 7/19/2010 10:40:29 AM , Rating: 5
Microsoft isn't Apple though. Microsoft will get scrutinized for all the SAME things Apple did when it released the first iPhone even though Apple never really did. Not that they don't deserve it, but I'm tired of double standards.

RE: beta phone
By superPC on 7/19/2010 11:40:44 AM , Rating: 2
Why have a text selection system without copy paste? I say copy paste will come in the final version. and windows phone 7 do have multitask but only for first party application (at first I hope, or maybe someone can hack an app to make it able to multitask like a first party apps). for proof: well i hope microsoft is quicker than apple in implementing the necessary changes. the bit about facebook is deeply concerning.

RE: beta phone
By David007 on 7/20/2010 7:41:20 AM , Rating: 2
I have some 2000+ people in my Contacs and 200- Facebook friends. So I don't get how the import of my FB friends may seriously stain my Contacs.

AnandTech FB page, for example, has 1743 fans. I think that event that amount of new contacts woudn't kill my address list.

So I really don't consider this to be an issue.

RE: beta phone
By Smilin on 7/20/2010 4:28:53 PM , Rating: 2
+1 QFT.

RE: beta phone
By mcnabney on 7/19/10, Rating: 0
RE: beta phone
By badbirdlb on 7/20/2010 1:32:04 PM , Rating: 2
The "late to the party" line is BS I never was early or even on time to a party...are you kiding me. MS was late to the OS party, late to the game console party, showed up took Apples lite beer pour it over sonys head did a quick keg stand grabbed three hotties and one chuby but cute girl...becuase we all know chubbies try harder and walked out.

RE: beta phone
By clovell on 7/19/10, Rating: 0
"Vista runs on Atom ... It's just no one uses it". -- Intel CEO Paul Otellini

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