If you still have a bad taste in your mouth from Windows Mobile, you should rest assured that Windows Phone 7 is a complete break from the past. Microsoft threw out the code and started fresh with this new mobile operating system and this is apparent once you turn on a Windows Phone 7 device.
Gone are the days when a Microsoft phone just looks like Windows shrunk down to a phone and you’ll now be met with the Metro UI full of tiles and hubs that deliver dynamic information. For example, the People hub ties in to online services like Facebook and that tile will flash when one of your contacts updates their status, or when you receive a message from them. You’ll be able to use that hub to respond to them via multiple communication methods (Facebook, IM, text) without having to jump into a separate app.
In essence, Microsoft is trying to deliver a more connected experience than Apple or Google, which still generally live in an environment which you hop from app to app.
Windows Phone 7 will also have strong gaming features, as it will be the only phone with XBox Live integration. You’ll be able to manage your avatar and points through this and you’ll eventually be able to take some portion of Xbox games on the go. Microsoft is making a big push with mobile gaming, so expect a ton of games to flood this platform.
This platform will also be the second with the Zune media software – the ill-fated KIN lineup was the first. This will be the default music and multimedia player and you’ll also be able to get Zune Music subscription on the go.
This being Microsoft, the Windows Phone 7 devices will come with Office preloaded and it will also play nice with Exchange Servers. From what we’ve seen, the e-mail client is pretty darn good and it will have support for all the major providers (I wouldn’t expect as good of a Gmail experience as on Android though).
The platform will have a mobile version of Internet Explorer and Bing and Bing Maps will be the default search and mapping clients. You can still access Google or Yahoo through the web browser or through apps but you won’t be able to change the default Bing integration.
We had some hands-on time with the software and the user interface and you can check it out in the video below.
The underlying platform is definitely important but a company cannot be successful without a strong app ecosystem. Windows Phone 7 will officially only be able to add apps through the Windows Marketplace for Mobile and Microsoft is doing its best to make sure this will be filled with high-quality apps at launch.
In terms of its developer tool, app makers will be able to use Silverlight or XNA to create programs. Apps will be able to operate in a standalone environment but the company is encouraging developers to create their own hubs or have apps that integrate with the hubs.
It’s difficult to get developers to commit to an unproven platform when Apple iOS is still so lucrative and when Android looks like it’s on a rocket ship to the moon, so Microsoft has worked closely with partners and is even paying devs for Windows Phone 7 apps. This means the store won’t launch with the same number of apps as the competition but it should have high-profile programs like Netflix and Twitter out of the gates.
The Windows Phone 7 software looks like it will be pretty strong but what about the devices themselves? Well, Microsoft is making sure that all of these phones will be high-end by requiring all phones to fit into three chassis.
These requirements ensure that Windows Phone 7 devices will be competitive with what other superphones have and it means that these devices will have at least a capacitive multitouch screen with 800 by 480 resolution (more screen resolutions will come), a 1 GHz ARM v7 processor or better, 256 MB of RAM with at least 8 GB of Flash, 5-megapixel camera with flash, assisted GPS, accelerometer with compass, proximity and ambient light sensor. These devices will also have to have 6 hardware buttons: power/sleep, volume up and down, back, start, search and a hard key for the camera.
Manufacturers like Dell, HTC, Samsung, Acer and LG Electronics have committed to making Windows Phone 7 smartphones and we’ve seen a considerable amount of leaks of what these handsets will look like. There will be multiple form factors – full slide-out QWERTY, portrait QWERTY, full touch slate – but you can rest assured that any Windows Phone 7 smartphone you pick up will have good specs.
We’ll know a lot more about the full devices on Monday.
If you’re stoked about Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and can’t wait to buy one, be prepared to use AT&T or T-Mobile because it won’t be coming to CDMA carriers like Sprint or Verizon until the middle of 2011.
While we like the upcoming smartphone platform from Microsoft, it is still a 1.0 version and it won’t be as mature are iOS, Android or even BlackBerry 6. That means there won’t be cut and paste, tethering, microSD support or a few other things that one might expect. Those should all be coming with future versions though.
Just a reminder, we’ll be live blogging the announcement Monday, so check back here at 9:30 a.m. EST/ 6:30 PST for the latest. We’ll have hands-on of the crop of new devices, videos and everything you want to know.