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A Pocket PC Central Product Brief: Windows Mobile 7

Windows Phone 7 Product Brief

It's been nearly three years since we first learned of Windows Mobile 7; in that time, the OS has flipped, flopped and morphed to the point that what has arrived today in 2010 bears little to no resemblance to what was envisioned in early 2008.

And that's a good thing.

As the smartphone OS world has advanced in recent years, Microsoft needed to start fresh, to re-think what a Microsoft mobile OS should be.  And that's what they've done.

Windows Mobile 7, renamed Windows Phone 7, is the result of this soul searching.   

In this Pocket PC Central Product Brief, we'll provide an aggregation of rumors and official statements regarding the upcoming Windows Phone 7 OS.  This information will continue to be updated over the remainder of 2010, so drop back by regularly.  


A Focus On Touch...

Since the release of the Apple iPhone, Microsoft has been pushing its Windows Mobile software designers to move toward a more touch-based User Interface (UI). This push certainly affected the creation of Windows Mobile 6.5, and is seen even more clearly in Windows Phone 7. 

Moving through menus, through documents and web pages, etc., will be accomplished through touch motions; flicking a finger up and down, left and right, for example, will replace conventional scrolling. Moving from the new tiled Home Screen in Windows Phone 7, as seen right, will require a sweep of the finger to the left.  The resulting screen is the redesigned Start Menu.



A Tiled UI Organization

Tiles are the main organizational design feature for Windows Phone 7. Everything from the Home Screen to Contacts to section headers are formatted and organized around the square and the rectangle. 

From the Home Screen, for example, if you select the People tile, you get a list of contacts with tiled photos, tiled alphabetical headers for sorting contact names, and even a crossword puzzle style quick-select screen for getting to your desired contact information fast.  This clean, clear look is at the heart of the Windows Mobile redesign.



Music + Video

Media functionality in Windows Phone 7 has been completely revamped as well, but with a familiar look and feel.  Zune has heavily influenced the media section of Windows Phone 7 Series, and if you've ever used a Zune HD, you can't mistake the overlap. 

The Zune section of the OS provides playback for music and video and includes podcast support, built-in Internet radio powered by Pandora, and a marketplace for downloading new content.  Syncing with the Zune software on the PC is also supported, which provides a more iPod+iTunes like experience than current Windows-powered smartphones.  Managing playlists and other content via the Zune software should make for a more seamless media experience than we've seen from Microsoft to this point.



Legacy Software Support? Nope

Windows Mobile applications will not run on Windows Phone 7 devices.  This will be a hardship for those moving from Windows Mobile to smartphones running the new OS, and for software developers who will have to port their popular titles.  However, there is a silver lining to this move.  Software will be refreshed and built with more modern development tools. 


The Cloud Comes to Windows Mobile... Officially

With the introduction of Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft prepared an array of cloud-based services including wireless Cloud Syncing (My Phone) and Windows Mobile Marketplace, but did so in an informal manner. Support for these and other Windows Live and cloud-based services are and will be included in Windows Phone 7 with more emphasis. 


Windows Phone 7 Device Hardware Requirements

One of the strengths of Windows Mobile has been its widely varied device selection.  Windows Phone 7 also follows the partner model - as Google does with its Android OS; Microsoft will develop and control the OS (including updates) and device manufacturer / wireless service partners will provide the hardware and services. 

That said, Microsoft has put in place some hardware minimum requirements to help ensure a common user experience.  These requirements include an ARMv7 Cortex or better CPU, at least 8GB of onboard flash memory, a 5MP or greater digital camera, multitouch capacitive touchscreen displays, onboard GPS, and an array of sensors including accelerometer, magnetometer, light and proximity sensors.


The Windows Phone 7 Browser

Windows Mobile's web browsing experience has long been at the bottom of the heap when compared with competitors, and Microsoft has focused a great deal of attention on changing this with Windows Phone 7.  The new OS features a redesigned Internet Explorer Mobile browser with functionality "halfway between [the] IE7 and IE8 rendering engine."  Flash support will be included, though not at launch.



Multitasking - at least by third-party applications - is not allowed in Windows Phone 7, though this ability will be added later, according to Microsoft.  This is unfortunate, particularly because it means there will be no communication between non-Microsoft apps.


Windows Mobile 7 / Windows Phone 7 Series Additional Thoughts

NVidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang recently stated that his company's smartphone efforts are "completely focused on Windows Mobile 7."  Better mobile GPU support in Windows Mobile 7 could not only impact functionalities like web browsing and video playback, but gaming support as well. 

As more information regarding WM7 becomes available it will be added to this page.

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