As many had speculated, Microsoft yesterday unveiled its Windows Phone 7 Series platform at the Mobile World Congress, with CEO Steve Ballmer saying the first handsets will follow late in the year in time for the Christmas season.
After taking a bruising in the smartphone market for three years, Microsoft has finally announced a platform that is more than the iterative improvements of 6 and 6.5.
The company’s vice-president for Windows Phone, Joe Belfiore, who presented the new platform to a press crowd of 450 at Barcelona, said that in developing its next-generation OS it wanted to build a “different kind of phone” and move away from the sameness it found in the market. “The 7 Series isn’t just a new chapter for us but a new beginning for Windows Phone.”
Device website Engadget said the new OS “does away with pretty much every scrap of previous mobile efforts from Microsoft, from the look and feel down to the underlying code -- everything is brand new.”
Belfiore said the focus was on a smart design that makes software and hardware work in unison. A key to the new UI is the use of super icons or “live titles” that are dynamically updated to show users real-time content directly. When a user creates a tile of a friend, he can see an up-to-date view of a friend’s latest pictures and posts.
Tony Wilkinson, the company’s business operations director for consumers and online in Australia, told telecomasia.net, that many of the specs will be standard across devices, making future upgrades more streamlined.
“In the past there was an enormous amount of work to do just up upgrade a version because of the many different models from so many makers,” he said. “Certain configurations, such as screen resolution and camera, will now be standard, but the handset vendors are encouraged to continue to introduce a variety of form factors.”
The new interface also features “hubs” that bring together content from various desktop and online sources to simplify common tasks. For example, the People hub (or contacts) aggregates content from email contacts, webmail accounts and social networking sites, such as Facebook, into a single view. Belfiore demonstrated on a prototype the six hubs – People, Pictures, Office and Music & Video, Games and Marketplace – each of which is automatically updated as other sources are updated.
The Games hub incorporates the company’s
Xbox Live services while the Music & Video hub links to its Zune music player.
Qualcomm said it was the first chip company to support Windows Phone 7. It said it was working with Microsoft and “multiple device manufacturers” on smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips.