Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system was a major disappointment for everyone. A lot of good phones were hogged down by the old design and inefficiency of this mobile OS. It doesn’t have support for new features like capacitive screens, multi-touch, touch typing and gestures, and it was originally created for use with a stylus (and most modern smartphones running WinMo 6.5 don’t come with one). In one word, it was (and still is) OLD.
Microsoft said that their next mobile OS, Windows Phone 7 will be a totally new design, created from the ground up, and nobody believed them, because, well… it’s Microsoft, the company that almost forcibly replaced the good old Windows XP with a slower, less efficient resource hog named Vista.
Everyone was expecting the same to happen for Windows Mobile 7. And the fact that its release was being delayed over and over again certainly didn’t help things. But, when Microsoft released Windows 7 (the desktop OS), everyone turned their attention towards them again. Windows 7 was what it should’ve been: a faster, lighter (compared to Vista), improved and more advanced operating system. The enterprise sector and users accepted it as an acceptable, even great replacement for Windows XP, something they’ve never done with Vista.
And people started thinking: what if Windows Mobile 7 is the same – innovative, fast and with support for the latest features. Their interest kept rising, and when the new Windows Phone 7 (its real name) was released, everyone said and thought: Yes, this is the most innovative OS on the market.
So, let’s see what new, innovative and exceptional features it has that make it a serious competitor and a great comeback of Microsoft into the mobile operating systems market.
Hubs: Hubs are a core part of Windows Phone 7, and they’re very important in defining the whole operating system. With hubs, you have all of the content in a specific category in one place, where you can easily access it. For example, there’s a music hub in the form of the Zune app, which contains all the music you bought in Zune AND the music you have stored on your phone’s memory. So, in Windows Phone 7 you can access your music using individual apps AND have it in a central location, if it’s more convenient. And that’s not limited to only music. For example, you can have all your Excel, Word, PDF and other files associated with office use in the business hub. This makes it very easy to store and search through information.
Tiles: An innovative feature on Microsoft’s part, the tiles are a replacement for the usual icons found in other operating systems like iPhone and Android. And they’re not simply static, either. They all show and represent what’s happening inside (they can show that you’ve got a new comment, email, that a new person is online in Skype – and you see almost all of it at once, without navigating anywhere). Of course, Android and iPhone have Push notifications, but they’re not as stylishly integrated into the core as the Windows Phone 7 tiles.
Apps: For any operating system, whether it’s mobile or for desktop computers, third party applications and extensions are what dictate the number of users that it will have. If there are no apps, users won’t buy your OS, because they wouldn’t have anything to do with it. The apps demonstrated at the Windows Phone 7 launch event were very well designed. They were stylish, yet functional, with no extra stuff that no one needs. A lot of big names have already stated that they will launch apps for W7P, and that is a good first step towards assuring users that they won’t be left with no useful apps. The Marketplace (which will be launched soon, with its own payment processor and account system) is designed so that developers will offer only a “Try before you buy” method. This means you get the full application, test it, and buy it if you like it or delete it if you don’t like it. No confusing Lite/Pro apps here. This may be bad for some, but it’s good for the enterprise and consumers who want a clearly regulated marketplace and business model.
Games: In this area, developers have demonstrated something truly amazing: a game that ran on the Xbox, Windows 7 (Desktop) AND the Windows Phone 7. Yes, the games can be cross-platform and you can play them anywhere, as standalone or using your Live account (with the stats recorded there, obviously). This is essentially what Sony tried to achieve with the PSP/PS3 setup, but failed. Microsoft developers promise that they will succeed, and we sure hope so!
Mesh: This is Microsoft’s (and not only theirs) plan to unite all your devices and data into one “cloud” of information, which can seamlessly be accessed and operated from any device, be it your laptop, desktop computer, or mobile device. Microsoft will be the provider of all the services: Email, Games, Music, Movies, Search, Maps, and many others. Just like Google does with their Apps Suite (Calendar, Search, Docs, etc.). But Microsoft may succeed with Windows Phone 7 where Google and Apple failed with their Android and iPhone, respectively.
Microsoft has certainly been releasing successful products one after another in this last year, and Windows Phone 7 just continues the trend. Let’s hope they’ll come up with even better stuff in the future. For now, I can say that Windows Phone 7 is definitely going to be a serious contender for the mobile OS space, along with Android and iPhone.