Windows Phone 7 Series. Get used to the name, because it's now a part of the smartphone vernacular... however verbose it may seem. Today Microsoft launches one of its most ambitious (if not most ambitious) projects: the rebranding of Windows Mobile. The company is introducing the new mobile OS at Mobile World Congress 2010, in Barcelona, and if the press is anything to be believed, this is just the beginning. The phone operating system does away with pretty much every scrap of previous mobile efforts from Microsoft, from the look and feel down to the underlying code -- everything is brand new. 7 Series has rebuilt Windows Mobile from the ground up, featuring a completely altered home screen and user interface experience, robust Xbox LIVE and Zune integration, and vastly new and improved social networking tools. Gone is the familiar Start screen, now replaced with "tiles" which scroll vertically and can be customized as quick launches, links to contacts, or self contained widgets. The look of the OS has also been radically upended, mirroring the Zune HD experience closely, replete with that large, iconic text for menus, and content transitions which elegantly (and dimensionally) slide a user into and out of different views. The OS is also heavily focused on social networking, providing integrated contact pages which show status updates from multiple services and allow fast jumps to richer cloud content (such as photo galleries). The Xbox integration will include LIVE games, avatars, and profiles, while the Zune end of things appears to be a carbon copy of the standalone device's features (including FM radio).
Besides just flipping the script on the brand, the company seems to be taking a much more vertical approach with hardware and user experience, dictating rigid specs for 7 Series devices (a specific CPU and speed, screen aspect ratio and resolution, memory, and even button configuration), and doing away with carrier or partner UI customizations such as Sense or TouchWiz. That's right -- there will be a single Windows Phone identity regardless of carrier or device brand. Those new phones will likely look similar at first, featuring a high res touchscreen, three front-facing buttons (back, start, and perhaps not shockingly, a Bing key), and little else.
Carrier partnerships are far and wide, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, while hardware partners include Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm. We're told that we likely won't get to see any third-party devices at MWC, though Microsoft is showing off dev units of unknown origin, and the first handsets are supposed to hit the market by the holidays of this year.
We had chance to go hands-on with a device before the announcement, and we've got some detail to share on just what the experience is like, so click here to read our hands-on impressions (with lots of pics and video on the way!).
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Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 7 Series
New phones designed for life in motion to debut at holiday 2010.
BARCELONA, Spain - Feb. 15, 2010 - Today at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the next generation of Windows® Phones, Windows Phone 7 Series. With this new platform, Microsoft 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. Partners have already started building phones; customers will be able to purchase the first phones in stores by holiday 2010.
"Today, I'm proud to introduce Windows Phone 7 Series, the next generation of Windows Phones," said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. "In a crowded market filled with phones that look the same and do the same things, I challenged the team to deliver a different kind of mobile experience. Windows Phone 7 Series marks a turning point toward phones that truly reflect the speed of people's lives and their need to connect to other people and all kinds of seamless experiences."
Designed for Life in Motion
With Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft takes a fundamentally different approach to phone software. Smart design begins with a new, holistic design system that informs every aspect of the phone, from its visually appealing layout and motion to its function and hardware integration. On the Start screen, dynamically updated "live tiles" show users real-time content directly, breaking the mold of static icons that serve as an intermediate step on the way to an application. Create a tile of a friend, and the user gains a readable, up-to-date view of a friend's latest pictures and posts, just by glancing at Start.
Every Windows Phone 7 Series phone will come with a dedicated hardware button for Bing, providing one-click access to search from anywhere on the phone, while a special implementation of Bing search provides intent-specific results, delivering the most relevant Web or local results, depending on the type of query.
Windows Phone 7 Series creates an unrivaled set of integrated experiences on a phone through Windows Phone hubs. Hubs bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks. Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people:
People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.
Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user's photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person's entire picture and video collection.
Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer's avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.
Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user's PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.
Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.
Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world's leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive and up to date while on the go.
Partners from around the world have committed to include Windows Phone 7 Series in their portfolio plans. They include mobile operators AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, and manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC Corp., HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm Inc. The first phones will be available by holiday 2010. Customers who would like to receive additional information about Windows Phone 7 Series and be notified when it is available can register at http://www.windowsphone7series.com.
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, readers can visit http://www.microsoft.com/news/windowsphone.