Microsoft Stages Comeback to Mobile Game with Windows Phone Series 7
Microsoft has overhauled the design of its mobile operating system, done away with the moniker 'Window Mobile', and launched Windows Phone Series 7. The new platform effectively scraps Windows Mobile 6.x with a completely revamped user interface and more tightly defined integration with devices and networks. With this launch Microsoft intends to reclaim the market share they have been consistently losing to Google’s Android, RIM, the iPhone OS and Symbian.
Up until the release of the open Android platform, Microsoft was considered as a sizable competitor against Nokia’s Symbian. When Android was launched in 2007, Microsoft was pushed into the back seat and has been struggling to retain leadership position ever since. Handset manufacturers have also been increasingly adopting competing operating systems, especially Android. Samsung recently announced it would launch five new smartphones powered by Android this year, in addition to five other handsets fitted with Samsung's own Bada operating system and a just handful with Microsoft's platform. With the Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft is hoping to win back the interest of handset device makers that shifted away from the Windows Mobile series.
At the press conference announcing Windows Phone 7, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said, "We knew we needed and wanted to do things that were out of the box, that were clearly differentiated from our past and hopefully from other [offerings] in the market."
Windows Phone 7 is a complete departure from previous Windows Mobile operating systems, focusing more closely on social-networking capabilities, real-time information, and organising contacts and data in to single “hubs” to make it easier to keep in touch. The mobile operating system is heavily focused on social networking and integrates with Microsoft’s other platforms, namely Zune and Xbox Live. Zune’s interface will be a direct port for the stand-alone players, while Live will provide profiles, avatars and Live games. Notable feature include:
- People hub: allows one-click interaction with people in a user’s contact book, as well as a live stream of Twitter, Facebook updates from friends and information from server locations likes Microsoft Exchange
- Pictures hub: pulls together recently synchronised or recently taken photos, and pictures pulled from social networking sites and other webservices like Flickr
- Games hub: brings Xbox Live games to a mobile device for the first time. With this integration users will be able to download and play games through Microsoft’s online store – Xbox Live Marketplace
- Music+Video hub: includes Zune software which will allows users to sync and play content downloaded through the Zune marketplace store. This will also include a built-in FM radio and Zune Social to share music recommendations with other users
- Marketplace hub: gives users access to Microsoft’s downloadable third party applications and games. It will also allow individual programmers to upload applications onto the app store. This rectifies what Microsoft’s mobile platform has been criticized most for. Unlike most smartphone platforms Microsoft’s platform has always been released by different sets of mobile manufacturers and developers always had to release multiple versions of the applications to ensure compatibility with different hardware architectures. This also led to the extreme popularity of the iPhone App store.
- Office hub: this comes as quite a surprise, a paradox actually. Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows Phone, said it was time to stop thinking about mobile phones like PCs. “A phone is not a PC, it’s a smaller, more intimate device,” he said. “Too many phones are made to look like PCs. We wanted to come up with a user design that was different, that moved beyond the metaphor of the PC.” The Office hub contains productivity tools such as Office, OneNote, and SharePoint workspace thereby enabling users to edit, read and share documents. How users will accept these tools and use their small screens to edit documents of any importance remains to be seen.
Watch the video that talks about WP7's features:
Ballmer reckons that the company won't be replacing Windows Phone 6.5 just yet; instead, there will be a period of overlap between Microsoft's two mobile operating systems.
Handset Manufacturers Display Windows Love
Manufacturers have already begun building phones featuring Windows Phone 7 Series with plans for release by the 2010 holiday season, according to Microsoft. Manufacturers on board include Dell, Garmin, Asus, HTC, Hewlett-Packard, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba. Carrier partners include AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, and Vodafone.
HTC chief executive Peter Chou said "We're very busy working with Microsoft at the moment, and we're looking to deliver [a Windows Phone 7 Series mobile] later this year, which is very exciting."
Microsoft Next Set to Launch Own Phone
Microsoft has not officially disclosed any plans of releasing an in-house handset but Devmarch has covered speculations around Microsoft’s Project Pink. Pink is a top secret project operating independently from Windows Mobile, with the intent of directly challenging the iPhone. With Microsoft's radical launch of the WP7 platform the Windows phone, if and when it launches, will stand a better chance in the mobile market.