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Windows Phone 7 Series: Answers and Questions

 

Microsoft needed to really turn heads today with their Windows Mobile 7 Series presentation.  The presentation was critical to squelch the rumors, silence the critics who have ready to announce the death of Windows Mobile and to remain competitive in the Smartphone industry.

Steve Ballmer gave no context for what was to be presented believing it was important to just get on with the show and let Joe Balifore, Microsoft VP in charge of Windows Phones, lead the way in raising the curtain on the 7 Series. "In the end, this is all about the phones and how consumers will react." Balmer said. "It was important to get it (7 Series) out, show what we have now, rather than have it leaked out."

Microsoft needed to breath new life into one of the oldest mobile platforms still in existence. Based on what we saw this morning during the presentation and the hands-on time spent with the new OS, Microsoft did what it needed to do and did it well. Follow the break for more observations and thoughts on Microsoft's' Windows Phone 7 Series presentation.

As several key elements of the 7 Series were revealed, questions and rumors were addressed.  Microsoft did a very good job of presenting what they had in place, gave us a sense of direction but as more was revealed, more questions developed.

Here are a few of the topics that stood out from the 7 Series presentation and the questions that were left in the wake.

 Consistency

Consistency was a word that dominated the presentation and, dare I say, the consistent theme for the morning.  Microsoft has often been criticized for the lack of consistency Windows Mobile has and with 7 Series they are going to develop more "across the board" consistency. 

From core hardware specifications to User Interface, Microsoft believes consistency will not only be good for the consumer but also the manufacturer. It will allow them to build phones more quicker and efficiently. While core specifications will be established (screen resolution, touch technology, UI, drivers, etc.) Microsoft's goal is to establish consistency while enabling creativity from their partners.  Consistency won't close the door on network specific services.

But will this consistency create conflicts? Will Samsung give up their Widget UI for the 7 Series UI? Will HTC modify their Manilla/Touchflo UI to match the "Hubs" of 7 Series?  Will this minimize the "bloatware" that has loaded down Windows Mobile for years or make it more attractive?

Hubs

The Hub concept is designed to place what would take several screens to accomplish on a PC into a compact, organized package on the Windows Phone. Hubs create a destination for common tasks, organizing several applications under one roof. For example, with contacts you have your Outlook contacts, Facebook contacts, and Windows Live contacts. The Contacts Hub on 7 Series pulls all three together under one roof.

From the Hub you can see your recently used contacts, all contacts and a "what's new" feature that reveals any social updates your contacts may have posted on Facebook. The "What's New" feature will allow you to interact with the updated statuses by replying to them. 

Windows Phone 7 Series

Windows Phone 7 Series (Image credit: Microsoft)

You will have similar Hubs for Photos, Business, Music, and Games. Each pulling from various sources and offering various avenues of integration.

The Hubs will place a lot of information at your fingertips but it will also create a significant demand on a networks' data service. AT&T was introduced as a primary partner in the Windows Phone 7 Series launch. How much of a data strain will the new 7 Series features put on a network that already has a data intensive phone? One can only hope that with today's announcement carriers will continue to intensify their efforts to increase and improve network coverage.

Windows Mobile 6.5.xx

Ballmer made it clear that Microsoft will continue to invest in Windows Mobile 6.5. What wasn't clear is how long this investment will last or the role Windows Mobile 6.5 will play. We discussed the possibility of two versions of Windows Mobile 7 (business and media).  There was no mention of a 7 Series business model so will WM 6.5 eventually turn into a business model?  Could Windows Mobile 6.5 find it's way on business/industrial devices such as tablets and inventory control devices?

7 Series clearly has the capability of handling business and personal needs. Will the distinction between media and business come from device design?  Will the media model have the larger screen, no keyboard and 3.5mm jack? While the business model come with a smaller screen and front-facing QWERTY keyboard?

And what is to become of Windows Mobile Standard? Is the news from this morning set into motion events that has this OS becoming a thing of the past?  With the capacitive screen becoming a core specification, has the EOL of the non-touch screen devices become inevitable? 

What was left out?

While the presentation raised the curtain on Windows Phone 7 Series and put to rest many rumors, it still left us with several outstanding questions. Microsoft couldn't address everything during the 90 plus minute presentation and what was left out, will continue to be driven by leaks, speculation and rumors.

Where does Google stand in all this? The 7 Series relies heavily on Microsoft's products (e.g. Bing) and for those who rely on Google's products will the 7 Series continue to support that interface? Is GoogleMaps compatible with 7 Series?

Speaking of which, will ActiveSync be able to establish relationships with multiple Exchange Servers? Can we sync with Google's server as well as our work servers?

Will OTA updates be supported? What role will Marketplace play in all of this? We did learn that 7 Series will not support Adobe Flash but Ballmer did leave the door open by saying that Microsoft is open to supporting Flash with future releases.

Final Thoughts

While we walk away from the presentation with likely as many question as we did before hand, one thing is for certain, the Windows Phone 7 Series is impressive. From the smooth flowing page transitions, to the cleartype fonts, to the organization the Hubs present this new OS should take the Windows Phone to a new level.

Toss in the consistency that Microsoft is working towards and consumers will enjoy being able to move from phone to phone without having to learn a proprietary UI. Manufacturers can build upon the core specifications to offer a variety of phones to give consumers a choice. As Andy Lees from Microsoft put it, one size doesn't fit all and you will see a wide range of styles but the core specifications will be present in all of them.

Ballmer said he expected to put devices in the hands of consumers by this year's holiday season (less than ten months away).  Lofty goal?  Based on the progress we witnessed this morning, it should be a goal that can be met.  We may see a trickle of devices at first but development appeared on a good pace based on the hands-on presentation that was given.

I agree with Microsoft in that your phone is a more intimate device than a PC and should be something that focuses on the individual. A device that reflects the needs of the user, placing them at the center of the experience. One thing is clear in that after this morning, the Windows Phone has begun to take new shape. A shape that is sure to shake things up a bit and redefine our smartphone experience.

George is the Reviews Editor at Windows Central, concentrating on Windows 10 PC and Mobile apps. He's been a supporter of the platform since the days of Windows CE and uses his current Windows 10 Mobile phone daily to keep up with life and enjoy a game during down time.

28 Comments
  • i am really looking for a computer phone, not a gameboy phone. and i dont mean that games on a phone is bad they are awsome, i am comparing it to a gaming device which is a lockdown device that is made for one thing. a computer is made for everything that a computer can do. an iphone is a gameboy phone and so is android. people go to iphone for a gameboy phone. people go to android because they dont like apple. but people go to microsoft for a productive computer device and this just doesnt look like it. it looks like a gameboy phone. for instance. this phone is already assuming that i play xbox and use facebook and use bing. i dont!!! i use windows, and then i use whatever i feel like from there!! i want a laptop with a phone!!! not a phone with a media shit pod in it!! "you can view available games" uughh!!! its like a commercial in your pocket!! "the phone is more personal than the pc". such a worthless and meaningless cliche. the phone IS a computer, and if the PC was not a good approach to operating a COMPUTER, it wouldnt be the best selling computer on the market!! they are trying way to hard to hold your hands through everything and label this as "smart". if i had it my way i would build my own phone like i do with my computer and pick and choose the things i want in it. havent people realized that TELLING people what they want is never a good way to do business? this actually makes me just want to stick with getting an hd2 with 6.5 and hope that xda hackers will take some of the good things from "iphone 7"(haha) and keep all the freedom of 6.5
  • It's hilarious how you think you can do better than Microsoft. They should make you CEO! You sound like a whiny little kid throwing a fit because mommy wouldn't let him have his way. Oh and laughing at your own jokes is incredibly lame. Especially when they aren't funny. But go ahead and stick with an older version of Windows Mobile. That'll show Microsoft by using....an older version of their product. YEAH! Fight the power!
  • Guess what buckwheat.. there are plenty of alternatives to microsoft in this world and most of them do what they do better.
  • your a moron!! your paragraph accomplished nothing and made no sense. probably sums up your life pretty well huh?
  • Yeah I'm also sort of disappointed with windows phone series 7. The Zune interface is great, I own a Zune HD and love it. But I also love the customization windows mobile offers. I will no longer be able to edit registries, no longer be able to bake my own ROMs to perfection, heck I don't want to use my phone i want to tweak it! I'm sure this will be great for consumers who want a easy to use smart phone such as an iphone. I've purchased a mogul, touch pro, touch pro 2, all at full retail because of what this phone offered. A totally customizable and versatile platform. Hopefully Microsoft will still announce a business version that companies like htc will build on and the community will be able tear down and port and tweak and hack. When i first bought a windows mobile device the guy in the store said something to me like "Why would you want one of those, they boot up and crash just like a computer, you should just get a Blackberry" fool didn't know that a pocket computer was exactly what i was looking for!
  • I agree completely.... microsoft presumes to assume the buyer of a phone uses xbox, zune, and bing and if you don't screw you. Well screw you microsoft.. I dont use any of that crap and I won't use windows phone.
  • Perhaps this is what they are keeping the 6.5.xx series around for. Microsoft needed to climb out of the niche market they were currently holding and Windows Phone 7 seems like how they are going to do it. For people who like their customization, I think Microsoft will try to keep that going on 6.5.3 and 6.5.5 and beyond
  • Did anyone say the OS won't work with Googles servies? NO, they didn't! The thing will pull down content from any service you use, if you don't use facebook or live mail it will work just fine with gmail as well and so on. Seriously, MS isn't going to talk about googles servies in their own OS demos are they? Are you even thinking about this at all?
  • Well I'm just going to wait it out.
  • Such an anticipated presentation and yet, hardly any discussion about some of the significant rumors: (1) What about "project Pink" and phones like the "turtle", etc.? How do they, if at all, fit into the Windows Phone 7 Series? (2) Screen resolution was mentioned but what about other specs that Microsoft was thought to make standard such as memory? How rigid will Microsoft be and will they really be able to enforce anything? (3) Was there any discussion about Microsoft changing the relationship with the service providers or will it be business as usual: the carriers decide what's best for customers and will decide when and if to release incremental updated to the OS? (4) What about the rumor of a so-called non-multitasking OS? (5) Was anything mentioned on the application front (other than "Hubs") that would make Window Phone 7 Series really stand out? (6) From a developer perspective, the upcoming version of Visual Studio has been noticeably silent on Windows Phone development updates. Was any mention made of when developer tools would be available to support apps being available at the same time as the new Windows Phones? Since it didn't appear that many of these questions were answered, did Steve Ballmer at least lay out a calendar of when some of these issues would be made more concrete? Maybe I'll have to see a YouTube video of the presentation so I can judge some of this for myself. So many questions...
  • Okay... let me give it a shot...
    1)Here is some more info on the "Turtle". There is no Zune Phone but instead 7 Series will integrate with Zune and use it as the music/video hub.
    2)No specifics on memory mentioned in the presentation but it appears the manufacturers are on board with maintaining a level of consistency. I got the impression that Microsoft could establish a level of consistency without hindering creativity.
    3)Carriers appear on board as well with Microsoft giving them some flexibility to include their services to the 7 Series. AT&T and Orange (UK Carrier) were singled out as primary partners for the eventual launch.
    4)and 5)Office products were mentioned including OneNote and Sharepoint. The Mobile Office suite was pictured in a screen shot. Facebook was referenced often but not too much on specific apps.
    6)More on the developer's front to come next month at MIX10.
    You might be able to find more out at the 7 Series website, windowsphone7series.com.
  • a few thoughts... folks who like tweeking registries and cooked roms are a distinct minority of the phone market - just like people who build their own desktop computers are a distinct minority of the pc market. if winmo/pho catered to the tweekers, it would be finished as a viable os as its market share dropped to virtually nothing. the nice thing about hubs is that the content concept (contacts, or music/video) would remain consistent while individual technologes olike facebook or outlook) might change. this is important to the longevity of the hub metaphore. the simple fact is that people who have been buying winmo phones for the last few years are an older bunch of consumers. go into any att store and ask the folks working there what the average age is for winmo phone buyers verses iphone buyers. msft has been loosing out for two years or so to apple. so, it really needs to appeal to younger buyers again. these new mobile operating systems are like 'gateway systems' leading consumers to try other os's and impacting the core windows franchise. iphone sales have created more mac customers than anything else. with android becoming a viable alternative to windows on a range of devices, msft needs something to stop the erosion of its core franchise - windows. the biggest source of that erosion is from people trying things like iphones and android phones and getting a taste of something different that they go on to like and trust. so, i think the new focus on standardization is a good thing, it helps create an actual WinPho experience and creates cohesion between msft solutions across platforms hooray!
  • can you be more wrong? "if winmo/pho catered to the tweekers, it would be finished as a viable os as its market share dropped to virtually nothing."
    -seemed to work just fine for there PC products which continue to be the highest selling OS ever... they dont have to cater to anyone and they didnt. they just layed it out on the table for everyone to grab...and they did. with WP7 they just went apple on us. we have enough apple like products out there. and WM has only recently been beaten by the iphone. they are still in third place and still beating android. which is definately saying something since the operating system is old and slow. try to grasp that concept. the slowest and clunkiest os is not in last place. that means there approach that you describe as "catering to tweakers" has obviously been pretty damn popular!!
  • You really don't know what you're talking about do you? Of 100 people, who bought a computer, how many do you think built it from components? And how many people who buy mobile phones will make registry edits? Maybe 5%. There's your market for you. Have fun, bra! And by the way, no-one knows that you won't ontinue to be able to make such edits with 7. But HOORAY if you DON'T need registry edits to "fix" a kludgy slow device. Next. Market share and market momentum are two different things. If you have a big market share and it's shrinking, that is a problem. If you have marginal market share and it's shrinking it's an even bigger problem. MSFT has shrinking marketshare on desktop/laptop systems, brousers and phones. Yeah, everything's fine and they should continue doing what they're doing. MSFT is a BIG company, but with strong competition in every market where it competes. MSFT really has to turn the ship around on a few of them. SQL Server and Office is under threat also, BTW. SO - HOORAY for WinPho 7 and all the innocation it can bring, bra! Got that?
  • I'd take Sense UI over this any day. On Sense UI I can see the following just by unlocking the phone: Time, current weather and high and low for the day, date, next calendar appointment, whether I have a missed call, new text message, or new email, and 3-5 links to directly access applications. What can I see on WM7 after unlocking? Apparently half the screen is taken up by the phone app, email, texts, and contacts. The clock is a tiny afterthought in the top right corner. And then maybe you can get two or three more panels on there. Ugh. I'm going to be holding onto my TP2 (with NRGZ ever-evolving ROMs) for a long time. My hope is that WM7 phones can be "downgraded" to 6.5.3. I have no interest in this "upgrade.:
  • You can move things around and remove or add tiles, you did watch the demo and or the keynote didn't you? More Tiles/widgets will come like for weather and you can place that at the top if you want. I don't quite see where the problem is at all, the size of the tiles? Maybe they scale if you want to add a 3rd colum. You can scroll down for more as well. So, if anything, this is more customizable imo. Just because the tile setup MS picked to show off the UI doesn't fit with what you want doesn't mean it's locked and can't be changed.
  • I'd like to hear all WMExpert's staff chime in on this, with each given his/her own space. Malatesta (Malesesta?) can't be happy about this, considering he's a ROM cooker. Maybe I'm wrong about the makeup of the audience, but I'd think regular readers of this blog would be of the more tweaking type. While WME can't bash WinMo since that's it's bread and butter, I have a feeling that George Ponder's views don't accurately reflect the majority of WME readers.
  • Heh. Good idea actually, will see about having each of us layout our thoughts. My quick ones won't be committal nor controversial: I don't think we yet have the "full" picture of what all of this means. There's still Turtle/Pure and what *that* is all about. Plus I'm convinced HTC & others will be able to customize the UI (see HTC article above this one). Personally, I'm okay with not making custom ROMs nor having XDA/PPCGeeks. Those groups partially exist to fill in the gaps left by MS. Still, like I said, I don't think we yet have the whole picture of everything, so I'd like to take a wait-and-see approach. Clearly there are a lot more answers needed. But my gut tells me MS is going to have their cake and eat it too by covering *all* possibilities.
  • I agree. It's best to wait and see; it's not like we can even get our hands on one of these devices for a long time anyway. Maybe it's because I'm new to the ROM flashing scene (3 months), but I think it's a lot of fun and really interesting. Perhaps for those who feel it's old hat the fact that you can't use a WM phone out of the box is just another annoyance, but I feel like I'd just be less interested in my phone if it just was what it was, without the ability to customize it or dig into its guts. (As a side note, I'm really disappointed that WM has become another "walled garden." This trend where every content company puts up its own wall is one day going to bite us in the @ss -- hard.)
  • I agree with Malatesta with that we may not know the whole picture. What i am worried about is the backward compatibility for other software to work. Overall i am impressed they have managed to crank out something worthy finally for the mobile space. I like their services bound onto one device. I am sure that it is possible to turn certain features on or off. I think it will take some getting used to but i feel as though they are on point. Personally, i am in no rush to upgrade my hardware at all, even though i have a 4 year old device with WM 5.0 (a 5 yr old OS). The funny thing is that i can do whatever i need to do with my device as per reason why i am not in a rush to upgrade. I like the newer layout, i like the minimalist design of the UI itself. It is not flashy, nor seem bloated. I like the animation transitions, and the fact that everything felt thought out. I did wish however they threw in SideShow, and develop those apps for it. I am using the tech preview, and i do find it useful when i am in bed and i wanna communicate with my PC and pull up content from there w/o use of wires. That is yet another reason why i don't think i will upgrade anytime soon. I hope they release more detains about its compatibility w/legacy programs, multi-tasking (seeing as now my phone does that just fine), e-book reader, their target of available apps for this platform at launch. Again, i felt quite impressed by how MSFT can pull it together. I think the number 7 is lucky for them. Windows 7 so far as been a success, maybe it can be replicated for Windows Mobile
  • I think Microsoft has taken two steps forward here and a least a step back. My biggest concern, and this goes along with the theme of the mobile computer versus mobile appliance discussion, is that today's announcement puts Microsoft along with Apple firmly in the appliance camp. I assuming that Microsoft will be just as diligent protecting their Series 7 "intellectual property rights" as Apple is with the iPhone.
  • How in the world will AT&T handle all the iPhones and the addition of the 100k Windows Phones that will sell next year?
  • Can someone pinch me...... or is this really Engadget's comment page?
  • From the touch screens to the zoom in/out...I still feel that Microsoft is playing catch up to Apple. I'm still waiting for them to take the leap and try something different different and go from following to leading...
  • How many different ways can you do touch gestures exactly? Pinch to zoom has become the defacto gesture for that option, along with double tap for a quicker method. Trying to bring in a new gesture to do the same task has no meaning. The UI itself and the idea behind the hubs IS a huge leap and it's different. These don't follow anyone at all.
  • All MS had to do was take the current WM OS and take all of the best things that 3rd party aps have done (e.g. SPB suite & Documents To Go) and integrate it into a new OS. The other key is standardizing around certain hardware requirements. Seriously... the issue has always been that I cannot customize the WM OS enough.
  • Bring it on!!! I am SOOOOO excited to jump into 7 Series I can't wait for my new every two to come around although the timing (next March) seems pretty perfect. I can't wait to see what HTC and Samsung can do with a MUCH more robust OS and even better hardware. I think people may have missed that fact that Balmer and other said all they've done is set the baseline bar for WP7S at a higher more consistent level than ever and are now daring their partners to push it higher. Like I said, BRING IT ON!!!
  • idk if i can do this, if theres no multitasking i think im out, and i realy dont want tht "multitaskisking" shit tht the iphone has tht it can play music in the bakround, but they say it is based on a multitasking platform,im wondering if they just dont allow ppl to use multitasking and maybe lik xda developers cood build a task manager