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Microsoft announces overhaul of Windows Mobile

Microsoft announces overhaul of Windows Mobile

Windows Phone Series 7 is a completely fresh start for Microsoft.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since the introduction of the Apple iPhone, nearly a year-and-a-half since the launch of the first Google Android phone and a year since the unveiling of the Palm Pre – all devices running innovative operating systems that have dramatically upgraded the capabilities and features of mobile phones.

There are two obvious names missing from that list – Nokia and Microsoft. The former yesterday announced it was merging its Maemo mobile OS with Intel’s Moblin to create Meego.

Microsoft has produced a smartphone OS since 2000, but recently Windows Mobile has seemed to be reaching the end of its life. It has suffered decreasing marketshare, has been abandoned by major phone manufacturers such as Samsung, and was reportedly branded a screw up by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Yesterday at its press conference at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Microsoft consigned previous versions of Windows Mobile into the recycle bin as it announced a brand new mobile OS, Windows Phone Series 7.

In the past, [with Windows Mobile] the team was focussed on building a great platform for third parties to build lots and lots of different products. It was really for businesses,” said Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows Phone Program Management, “We’ve changed our approach. We’re really, really focussed on end users, regular people who have full lives, who want to be entertained and get some work done.

On the surface, the new OS shares very little – if anything – with previous versions of Windows Mobile. It boasts a brand new user interface with a heavy emphasis on social networks and cloud services, plus tight integration with other Microsoft services and brands such as Office, Bing, Xbox Live and Zune.

The interface is based on the a UI concept Microsoft calls ‘metro’, characterised by flat squares, oversize type and large, horizontally scrolling panes of data that was first seen in Media Center, and then developed for the Zune HD. It’s no surprise that key members of the team behind the new OS came from the Zune and Xbox teams.

The UI eschews the grid of regular sized squares linked to specific functions – the approach taken by the iPhone – and is instead focuses on various hubs that group features by the data they relate to. For instance, status updates, addresses and phone numbers for contacts are all grouped together in the People hub, so you don’t need to open one app to see Facebook updates, and then another to see email and text messages from that same person. The hubs themselves are large panoramas which you scroll horizontally though – a bit like a gallery with data, programs and images hung on the wall – the idea being that this reduces the endless chopping-and-changing between apps that Microsoft appears to be pin-pointing as a key weakness of the iPhone’s UI.

The Games hub integrates Xbox Live – so you can see your avatar, achievements and Xbox friends. Little was said about what actual games might be available though, with further details promised by Microsoft at the MIX 10 conference in mid-March. With the iPhone now representing a significant gaming platform, it’s no surprise that gaming appears to be a key part of Series 7. Zune is also part of the new OS, forming the “music+video” hub. Office is also built into the phone, although it’s not clear yet exactly how functional it will be, and there’s integration with a variety of Bing services including maps, and the OS is capable of WiFi syncing. Essentially, if it’s a big Microsoft brand, it’s got a part to play in Series 7.

Microsoft announces overhaul of Windows MobileMicrosoft announces overhaul of Windows Mobile

Microsoft is also radically changing its own business model for Windows Mobile. Previously, the company licensed it to a wide range of hardware companies who had a lot of freedom in designing the device and in customising the software. With Series 7, Microsoft has a long list of mandatory hardware requirements - a capacitive, multitouch-compatible screen with at least four points of touch, accelerometer, 5-megapixel camera and FM radio all need to be present. A keyboard is an optional extra. All phones will have a search and start button, with the search key set to take you straight to Bing. Only select hardware manufacturers are being invited to make Series 7 phones, although unlike Android, hardware manufacturers will still have to pay a license fee to Microsoft for the software.

No mention has been made of the underlying hardware, although in one of the videos on the Series 7 YouTube page, a Qualcomm representative talks about its Snapdragon chip, a 1GHz ARM-based chip that currently powers Google’s Nexus One, amongst other phones. It’s unknown what role Nvidia’s Tegra has, if any – Tegra being the power inside the Zune HD. Also unknown are which countries will be getting Series 7 phones, as that’s yet to be announced, although the press release mentions partners from “around the world”. Products will be ready for “Holiday 2010

If you want a closer look at Series 7, a trailer is embedded below. For a more comprehensive view, a 22 minute demo is available on Microsoft’s Channel 9 blog. Excited by the chance to bring a bit of Xbox, Bing and Office to your phone, or is it too little, too late from Microsoft? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

28 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
Brooxy 16th February 2010, 17:49 Quote
I'd like to see a review of this when it comes out. As a fan of WinMo phones, I have noticed that for quick use the interface can be a tad...fiddly.

If they are bringing it into line with the XBL type of GUI, I think Apple / Google might have some good competition coming up, hopefully driving prices down.

One thing though - I really hope the price for it won't be too extortionate...
frojoe 16th February 2010, 17:49 Quote
better late then never I guess
MitchBomcanhao 16th February 2010, 17:49 Quote
i really hope this turns out to be good. competition only makes way for innovation and better products :)
BLC 16th February 2010, 18:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooxy
I'd like to see a review of this when it comes out. As a fan of WinMo phones, I have noticed that for quick use the interface can be a tad...fiddly.

If they are bringing it into line with the XBL type of GUI, I think Apple / Google might have some good competition coming up, hopefully driving prices down.

One thing though - I really hope the price for it won't be too extortionate...

Indeed, although I think this is one that I'd like to try before I buy.

I am a fan of WinMo, but completely agree: the UI is just a little too fiddly to quickly check emails, status updates, etc, or even just make a quick note. I've also always found that stock versions of WinMo, even when customised by the likes of HTC (who have done a hell of a job with the WinMo UI), are just too sluggish. "Chefs" who "cook" their own ROMs always do a much better job of tweaking and speeding up the UI (despite the legal grey area that this represents).

I would much rather try the real-world performance before committing to a lengthy contract or parting with lots of my hard-earned. One thing for me that will make or break it for me is how good the software keyboard is (if a hardware keyboard is not present). This was a real killer for my Touch Diamond - I ended up using the stylus all the time because the on-screen keyboard was so fiddly. I know there are alternatives to the built in versions, but nothing has really quite come close to the keyboard on the iPhone/iPod touch. Even my fat fingers/thumbs can type quite quickly on it!
Quote:
Originally Posted by MitchBomcanhao
i really hope this turns out to be good. competition only makes way for innovation and better products :)

Exactly. Let's just hope that this can truly compete with Android and iPhone OS.
mi1ez 16th February 2010, 18:46 Quote
I hate to say it, but this looks like a nice OS!
oasked 16th February 2010, 18:49 Quote
They had better not do a Zune on us and not release this outside of the US....
chrisb2e9 16th February 2010, 18:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasked
They had better not do a Zune on us and not release this outside of the US....

I agree on a level that can not be expressed in text format.
BLC 16th February 2010, 19:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasked
They had better not do a Zune on us and not release this outside of the US....
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisb2e9
I agree on a level that can not be expressed in text format.

Comment win! ;) :D
GoodBytes 16th February 2010, 19:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasked
They had better not do a Zune on us and not release this outside of the US....

During the live presentation, Microsoft talked about cellular provider, and you had Orange (which I believe it's a call phone service provider in Europe and UK). .

Also, Mary Jo Foley from Casey McGee, Microsoft Senior Marketing Manager, said that the Zune music / video service "would be available in all countries where Windows 7 Phones will ship,"
Source: http://www.engadget.com/2010/02/15/microsoft-zune-music-video-services-going-wherever-windows-pho/

You can see the hole event if you missed it here:
http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/windowsphone/videoGallery.aspx?contentID=mobileworldcongress2010
Horizon 16th February 2010, 19:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Brooxy
If they are bringing it into line with the XBL type of GUI, I think Apple / Google might have some good competition coming up, hopefully driving prices down.

It looks like the Zune UI but with good bit more thrown in.
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisb2e9
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasked
They had better not do a Zune on us and not release this outside of the US....

I agree on a level that can not be expressed in text format.

WinMo 7 series is being released internationally, and Zune will be going wherever it's released. International Zune launch seems to be a pleasant side affect of this
tron 16th February 2010, 20:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLC
I've also always found that stock versions of WinMo, even when customised by the likes of HTC (who have done a hell of a job with the WinMo UI), are just too sluggish.

Try the HTC HD2 ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmrXrQUZgwE
BLC 16th February 2010, 20:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by tron
Try the HTC HD2 ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmrXrQUZgwE

I admit I've been tempted, as there have been a few "for sale" threads advertising the HD2, and it does look rather nice (huge screen!)

I did watch the vid (and winced at the music ;)), but the trouble with comparing specs directly is that it gives no indication of the user experience. As powerful as the HD2 is, it's still based on Windows Mobile 6.5 - and that's where it falls down for me. Even with the HTC Sense overlay. I've used WinMo 6.5 on my Diamond and (just barely) on my Kaiser; the simplicity of use doesn't even compare to Android or iPhone OS. MS are right to wipe the slate clean with WinMo 7; Windows Mobile was originally Windows CE. At the time, it was an attempt to replicate the desktop experience on a portable device - it's moved on since then, but it at it's heart it hasn't really moved far. Hence the start menu, the registry, drivers, etc.
<A88> 16th February 2010, 21:50 Quote
Really chuffed they did this properly! It's a very bizarre looking OS but it's completely different to what others are offering at the same time. The iPhone is very much focused around its apps which offer a massive range of experiences but they're all very much separate and unconnected. WM7 on the other hand might struggle to garner as many developers but the whole system looks very unified and coherent from the start.

The other approach I'm really glad MS took was to finally bring together all their various other services into one product! Office, Xbox Live, Zune, Windows Live and Bing are all good products and all on the same platform at last!
knuck 16th February 2010, 22:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by oasked
They had better not do a Zune on us and not release this outside of the US....

this won't happen

I support Microsoft in this and I know they can do something good. The interface of my Zune HD is pure win. It really is awesome to use :)
Tyr 16th February 2010, 22:24 Quote
This looks like a toy :( I am quite disappointed. I have really enjoyed all my Windows Mobile devices. I've had a fair few over the years and they have served me well. WM6.5 is good (with HTCs addons) and with a capacitative screen and Sense UI even better.

I'll probably give a cooked Windows Mobile v7 ROM a go when they leak out. It will probably be better than I expect seeing as that video doesn't actually show much.

Otherwise I'm moving to Android and easy Java applications. I'll miss a few things from WM but never mind, I'm sure they'll be replaced.
tron 16th February 2010, 23:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by BLC
...but the trouble with comparing specs directly is that it gives no indication of the user experience. As powerful as the HD2 is, it's still based on Windows Mobile 6.5 - and that's where it falls down for me. Even with the HTC Sense overlay. I've used WinMo 6.5 on my Diamond and (just barely) on my Kaiser; the simplicity of use doesn't even compare to Android or iPhone OS.

I was previously using the HTC Touch HD1, and due to the fact that it also had the HTC Sense user interface, I seriously did not expect the HD2 to give me a much better user experience. But then I met the HD2 face to face ....

I think the best thing to do would be to try to get a proper hands-on demo of the HD2. What HTC have done is make it like 10 times better than the original Touch HD.

My girlfriend has (had) the iPhone 3GS, untill I got myself the HTC HD2. She took one look at mine. I didn't say a word. She smiled, then she held it, she caressed it, then she -came- to buy herself a HD2 the next day.

My older brother also got one the following day, as well as a few friends since then.

If Windows Phone Series 7 is supposed to be better than what I'm using now, then I'm impressed, and looking forward to it.
;)
Solidus 17th February 2010, 00:25 Quote
I posted this yesterday in the forums but il share my thoughts here too;

It looks promising and im now split between a win 7 series phone or an android phone.

Im currently an iphone user and quite frankly im so sick of how restricted the OS is. Sure it was fine at the beginning but as you get use to it you realise theres not much depth in it.

Its simple to use and very user friendly, the apps are cool but thats it - Theres no multi-tasking, theres no real customization to it - Hell you cant even change the background or have any of your own songs as a ring tone unless its from Itunes!

Sure there are ways around this but the mere fact you need to go through these "work arounds" is a pain in the ass.
You cant even have your ring tone play for more than 30 seconds which again is really annoying - I constantly sit back and let it ring just to hear Kardinals song "dangerous" hit the chorus but it never does...

Im sick of going in and out of different apps just to fulfill a single purpose - I want real multitasking.

The OS is glitchy as hell too. I have restored it no less than 5 times within 4 weeks because when it rings and i slide my finger to answer it doesnt respond with 3 second delay.

Also when i want access to the phone and I slide to unlock, it delays again, freezes at screens, randomly exits me out of apps...I could go on.

Now i doubt winmo series 7 will be all and end all but surely that or android has to be better than this?
tonyd223 17th February 2010, 10:04 Quote
Hah - I've got an original Orange SPV in a box somewhere and it still works! I've had too many WinMo phones that were just clunky geek toys (heh) before I went Blackberry - great to see that MS will not abandon the devices that connect most of the world to the internet...
Blademrk 17th February 2010, 11:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Solidus
... or have any of your own songs as a ring tone unless its from Itunes!
I've created my own ring tones for the iphone, it's easy enough to do - currently using the intro from Bleach season 2 as my ring tone.
crazyceo 17th February 2010, 13:54 Quote
I can't see WinMo7 being restricted to just Orange in the UK. A lot have commented on the new lease of life the iPhone has now it's available on Vodafone especially with 3.5G that actually works properly now. I wouldn't know personally since I'm using a HTC Touch Diamond with WinMo6 which I'm happy with and will do for now until this version comes out.
War-Rasta 17th February 2010, 15:48 Quote
I've just recently come to the world of smartphones when I bought myself an HTC Fuze. I don't have much experience with any of the other smartphones out there since I've never owned one but for I've been able to try for myself on other people's phones I can say that the UI on the Android is definitely the best of all; very customizable and easy to use. On my Fuze I liked the HTC Sense but I got SPB Mobile Shell for it and it's probably the best thing I could do.

I don't know if the new UI for the Series 7 will be better than the one on the Android or iPhone but will surely be better than the current stock UI for WinMo 6.5. The one thing I'm really concerned about is how hard the OS will be on the battery since that's the main problem I have with my Fuze. I had to buy a spare battery which I carry around all the time and also have an extra charger at work just so I can be sure that my phone won't die half way through the day and for what I hear it's pretty much the same on every WinMo phone out there so I REALLY hope the yimprove on that part or I will have to move to something else for may next phone.
supermonkey 17th February 2010, 16:07 Quote
Edit: nevermind, I see Solidus addresses the workarounds with the ring tone issue.

However, I've not had the buggy experience he's had. Maybe there's something wrong with your particular phone.
ernestBurney 17th February 2010, 16:09 Quote
I just hope they do something original with this release...a mobile phone is not a pc
Cupboard 18th February 2010, 03:12 Quote
Am I the only person that likes the current incarnation of WinMo?
I like being able to turn my phone on and see the time, new emails, texts and other useful things. I used HTC's Touch Flo 3D on my Diamond for a bit, but have reverted back to the stock home screen because, whilst it is less pretty, it is far more functional.

I have yet to try 6.5, and am pleased that they are progressing but I hope they don't move to spread things out too much - an overview on one screen, and a screen that isn't a list of programs - is useful.
Shagbag 18th February 2010, 07:37 Quote
With dwindling market share, it'll be interesting to see whether people will even bother with this or just go for the nextgen iPhone or GPhone.
gavomatic57 18th February 2010, 09:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shagbag
With dwindling market share, it'll be interesting to see whether people will even bother with this or just go for the nextgen iPhone or GPhone.

My thoughts exactly. I've got an iphone now (I resisted for a few years...), but if I didn't I'd have gone with an android based phone. I'm having trouble taking anything MS do seriously at the moment - It all seems so reactive and desperate.
Xir 18th February 2010, 13:50 Quote
Quote:
I had to buy a spare battery which I carry around all the time and also have an extra charger at work just so I can be sure that my phone won't die half way through the day

Hmmm, that reminds me of...1999?
I haven't got a smartphone, instead a simple I-can-phone-and-text-and-thats-it Nokia bar, but it'll last two weeks on one charge :D
Redbeaver 18th February 2010, 15:11 Quote
this looks nice.

although puma phone seems more interesting with its solar battery... (pumaphone.com)

not sure what to get next year....
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