Just as we expected and not before time, Microsoft took to the stage at MWC to finally unveil Windows Mobile 7, no, sorry, Windows Phone 7.
In the quest to pose a much sterner challenge in an increasingly iPhone and Android dominated world, it appears Microsoft is going to pull out all the stops to make up for precious lost ground.
To help you get a little more initmate with the ins and outs of the exciting new platform, see below for our 20 things you need to know about Windows Phone 7 Series
1/ Name change – Windows Phone 7
Windows 7 mobile, that’s what it was due to be called. Now we’ve got a ‘Phone 7’ to wrap our tongues around. Microsoft is an expert in sequential naming conventions (see IE 1-8), and this is another numerical winner. Luckily, it leaves the door wide open for future 8 and 9 OS, saving a fortune on branding.
Hubs and Tiles are new for Windows Phone 7 Series, and are at the heart of Microsoft’s assault on Apple, Android and Blackberry. The demo at Mobile World Congress was based around animated Tiles, very much like newer, shinier versions of the "Panels" demonstated by Sony Ericsson on the X1. The Tiles can be linked to Twitter feeds, Facebook etc – basically they’re internet widgets, but shinier and cooler.
A brand new concept for the Windows mobile platform, the six devised sections gather related content from the web, such as applications, programs and services, to help simplify everyday tasks.
4/ One UI
A troublesome issue for Microsoft in the past – do you allow HTC et al to goof around with your shiny software, creating Sense or Samsung’s TouchWIZ, or lock the whole thing down, restricting development? Microsoft has now gone with the latter, with minimum hardware specifications for devices, such as a touch-screen and a 5-megapixel camera. Manufacturers still will be able to define some features, such as whether to include a physical keyboard.
5/ Music & Video Hub
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.
6/ Games hub
The Games Hub will give you access to Xbox LIVE games, which we guess are simplified, moSnake rather than fully-fledged Halo. The users Xbox avatar is shown in the Games hub along with multiplayer games and messages from the service. It’s a simple move, but one that makes a lot of sense.
7/ Good for developers
A key point. As Nokia has found, keeping your app developer community happy is critical to success. Keeping a consistent UI and appealing to consumers and business are good points, but will there be too much central control for real innovation? Only time will tell – the SDKs are due next month…
8/ Windows Marketplace
It’s the sixth hub that Microsoft have kept relatively quiet about, but leaked pictures shows that the source for all your WinMo 7 apps and games, has had more than a lick of paint. Taking inspiration from the sleek Zune interface, this should be the Microsoft answer to the iTunes Store as you’ll be able to access music and podcasts
9/ More integration with office products
Windows Phone has to keep the features that make it appeal to enterprise as well as jazz up the media bits. This means that compatibility with Exchange and Office is tight, and so appealing to corporates –, for example. But Microsoft may finally have found a way to balance this with the thirst for snazzy smartphone tech.
10/ Zune integration
So we didn’t get a Zune phone, but this perhaps the bext best thing. Although never a big hit in Europe, the Zune crossover will bear fruit for Microsoft. The free software will bridge one of the big issues in the mobile market, how to sync content between desktops and phones, and is certainly one of the reasons that Apple has gained such a following.
11/ Bing button
Sorry Google, but this was one OS you weren’t going to get handed on a plate. Bing for search was an inevitability, but then after initial teething launch issues, Bing has served up search reliably. Although search is in danger of becoming a two horse race, at least that’s not a monopoly.
12/ Android appreciation
Notice anything familiar about the Windows Mobile 7 series? Maybe those buttons? Oh yes, not exactly Android, but damn close. Clearly usability lessons have been learnt by Redmond, and with only one UI to worry about, having consistent hardware keys was a must.
13/ Browser wars: ie
It’s not Dolphin, it’s not Safari, but it’s going to work. A completely new browser, based on the desktop version of Internet Explorer has been promised. Opera have shown the power of third-party browsers with 50 million active users – expect Microsoft to be taking notes.
If there’s one thing for sure, Microsoft will either include support for their own Sliverlight, or allow Adobe to get their Flash Lite in on the mobile multimedia case – no Apple iPhone escapades here, surely?
Apple did it, then mysteriously nobody else did, at least in the US. Patent dispute or not, Microsoft has seized the bull by the horns with full multi-touch support. To be fair, Europe would expect nothing less now, and like 3DTV and OLED, it’s the future, stupid.
15/ Pictures Hub
Helping those mobile snaps find a suitable social networking home, Windows Phone 7 Series should make it easier to share your pictures and vids and get them onto Twitter and Facebook sharpish
16/ People Hub
Focused around keeping in touch with your growing social community, you’ll be able to update your social networking sites quickly and easily all from one place.
Codename for the Zune software that works on your PC, you’ll be able to sync content to your Windows Phone easier than you could definitely do before.
18/ Office Hub
A hub for the frenetic worker in you, access to Office, OneNote and Sharepoint Workspace all in one place should help all those important commuter dealings. There’s also handy access to Outlook Mobile.
19/ HTC to build first phone
Barely was the OS announcement hanging in the cool Barcelona air before HTC fired off a press release claiming the first shipments. A ‘portfolio’ of phones will be landing before the ‘holiday period’ apparently. Although which holiday that could be is anyone’s guess.
20/ Who’s going to build them Windows Mobile 7 phones?
All the big names are signed up, including Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG and HTC, and Microsoft says the first handsets will be out in time for the holidays, with Orange bringing it to Europe sometime this year.