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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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I disagree about the contacts being unusable
By vrodtravis on 7/19/2010 10:14:27 AM , Rating: 5
I have a Palm Pre and it pulls in all of my Facebook contacts and merges them with my Gmail and Outlook contacts. Sure it make for a lot of contacts but there are tools that allow you to sort and find the contact that you need. I am sure that contacts be located simply by typing the first few letters or I know that they can quickly be located by selecting the letter tile you want to go to. ZUNE works the same way for quickly finding a song or artist...and it works just fine...even with thousand of songs. I think this is a good feature and am excited about a new WM phone.




By themaster08 on 7/19/2010 10:32:25 AM , Rating: 2
I also have a Palm Pre. You can show your contacts according to profile, and even merge profiles, so it's easy to remove your Facebook friends from your contacts list.

My guess is that Win Phone 7 has a similar way of dealing with contacts.


RE: I disagree about the contacts being unusable
By RamarC on 7/19/2010 10:36:44 AM , Rating: 4
HTC based Androids also grab your Facebook contacts and include them in your Phone list by default. It's a pain-in-the-butt until you figure out how to change the default list. But it's not a reason to knock an early beta of the Win phone.


By theapparition on 7/19/2010 10:41:00 AM , Rating: 5
quote:
Finally, perhaps the most egregious sin is that for those with Facebook accounts


Yeah, I agree with you. Sounds like a little over-the-top reaction to a minor annoyance in a Beta software build.

Egregious sin? Come on now, really?


RE: I disagree about the contacts being unusable
By sviola on 7/19/2010 11:47:55 AM , Rating: 2
It was an engadget review, what did you expect? They are not truly an unbiased site, anyway....Even after the iPhone 4 antenna issue, they kept the review unchanged (and it did not mention this) with a 9/10. Meanwhile, they gave the Droid X a 7/10, for less shortcomings than that.


By theapparition on 7/19/2010 1:51:59 PM , Rating: 2
Funny thing about the Droid X review was all the major deficiencies they cited were Android 2.1 based, not the actual Motorola Droid X hardware. 2.2 should fix most of thier gripes.
That was a completely biased review if I've ever read one. Seems that someone is sucking up to soften the legal blow they may receive.


By bodar on 7/19/2010 5:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously, who browses for contacts on a smartphone anyway? You type out part of the name and select who you want from the results. Takes all of 5 seconds. HTC Android phones even give you the option to link FB profiles to your contacts so your contacts display FB profile pics -- but you can turn it off.


By marvdmartian on 7/20/2010 8:51:51 AM , Rating: 2
ANY gadget or device that does something like that automatically, without even giving me the option to not do it first, is a gadget/device that I won't use.

The user shouldn't have to have a pain in the butt experience in figuring out how to change a default list. I want my gadgets/devices to do what I want them to do, and only when I tell them that's what I want. Assuming what I want is, well......you know what happens when we ASSume, right?


By dark matter on 7/20/2010 1:03:31 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, you go ahead and key in about a couple hundred plus telephone numbers, facebook pages, twitter accounts, email addresses, pictures, and all the other guk.

For the not so masochistic of us out there this is a godsend.

Plus you have the option of turning it OFF if you don't like it.


By omnicronx on 7/19/2010 10:39:48 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly, I don't know who made this comment but not only is it ill informed, but it does not really make any sense when you compare the feature to other phones on the market. This is how its implemented by pretty much any phone currently on the market that has facebook contact sync. As you noted the Pre's sync was one of its main features, and it does exactly the same thing as the article notes.


By Smilin on 7/19/2010 11:04:55 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed. I WANT this contacts feature. I have it now and do not want to give it up.


RE: I disagree about the contacts being unusable
By nafhan on 7/19/2010 2:29:37 PM , Rating: 2
I think friending 2,000 people in Facebook is a gregarious sin (actually, I just think it's stupid) and might make this feature a little more unwieldy. However, for most people - who are actually friends or even loose acquaintances with their Facebook friends - this sounds like a good thing.


By dark matter on 7/20/2010 1:06:32 PM , Rating: 2
Absolutely, perhaps the clown of a review had a stupid amount of "friends" on his facebook and it flooded his phone with people who he had no idea who they were.

He also probably believes that everyone hangs off his every word on his feed stream, forgetting that half of the people on his facebook "friends" list will never see it anyway.

(Yes, darlings, Facebook doesn't show all the status updates from all your friends, it decides which to show after a while...... Naughty of it eh!)


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