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Microsoft launches Windows Phone 7 – flawed but still blows away iPhone

Microsoft has demonstrated their next generation of their Windows Mobile (now branded Windows Phone) operating system firing a shot across the bow of Apple and the iPhone in the process.

Below is the PR spiel from Microsoft on the launch:

“Today at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft announced the next generation of Windows Phones. Windows Phone 7 Series offers a fresh approach to phone software, distinguished by smart design and truly integrated experiences that bring to the surface the content people care about from the Web and applications. For the first time ever, Microsoft will bring together Xbox LIVE games and the Zune music and video experience on a mobile phone, exclusively on Windows Phone 7 Series.”

Okay.. so does it live up to the hype? The Windows Phone 7 is a marked improvement over Microsoft’s existing mobile operating systems (This writer uses a HTC Touch Pro running Windows Mobile 6.5.3 so knows first hand) previously Microsoft has tried to shrink the desktop user experience down to the small screen of a mobile phone. This has proven unsuccessful with the need for a clumsy stylus to interact with your Windows Mobile phone in the past, some manufacturers, namely HTC (who account for 80% of Windows Mobile handset sales) have replaced the standard Windows Mobile interface with their own skin called SenseUI that overcame the problems of the underlying Windows Mobile user interface.

With Windows Phone 7, this problem is a thing of the past, with a tightly integrated UI design based around what Microsoft is calling live tiles which are updated with information from background processes as can be seen in the picture:

Windows Phone 7 Start ScreenBranching out from the tiled start menu screen is where things start getting more interesting, with six Windows Phone hubs available around which an assortment of content is clustered and integrated, the hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks and are built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people, including People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace and Office.

The user experience is best explained by actually seeing it in action with this YouTube clip.

Choosing to tightly integrate so many features into the Windows Phone hubs is telling in so many ways. Rather than focus on a third party applications ecosystem like the iPhone, Microsoft have chosen to bundle as much as the user is likely to want to interact with in the Windows Phone ‘experience’, which has advantages, but is evidence of just how far Microsoft believes it is behind the vibrant iPhone App Store ecosystem.

Hardware partners around the world have committed to include Windows Phone 7 Series in their portfolio plans, including Telstra and Vodafone in Australia, plus manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC Corp., HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm Inc.

To watch the full replay of Steve Ballmer’s press conference at Mobile World Congress, and to experience Windows Phone 7 Series through an online product demo, please visit: Windows Phone Demo.

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David Olsen

David Olsen

An undercover economist and a not so undercover geek. Politics, business and psychology nerd and anti-bandwagon jumper. Can be found on Twitter: <a href="http://www.twitter.com/DDsD">David Olsen - DDsD</a>

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