Microsoft has officially unveiled the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, which is a completely rebuilt version of the software formerly called Windows Mobile. The OS features a whole new look, a new organizational system, and an entirely new feel. Here's what you need to know about Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft will not manufacture the Windows Phone 7 phones; instead, it will work with hardware partners like HTC, LG, and Samsung to offer Windows Phone 7 phones. The software will make its U.S. debut on the Samsung Focus, which will be available from AT&T on November 8. AT&T is being called the "Premier" wireless carrier of Windows Phone 7, and will offer two more handsets -- the LG Quantum and the HTC Surround -- in mid-November. T-Mobile has announced plans to offer its own Windows Phone 7 handset in mid-November, too, and Sprint plans to offer at least one handset in early 2011.
Notably missing from the list of carriers offering Windows Phone 7 devices is Verizon Wireless, the largest cellular carrier in the U.S. It's been widely rumored that Verizon will begin selling a version of Apple's iPhone in 2011, so it'll be interesting to see whether the carrier will also offer handsets running Microsoft's new software.
All of the Windows Phone 7 handsets will offer some common features, including touch screens designed to take advantage of the new interface. For more information on the phones themselves, see Meet the New Windows Phone 7 Phones.
Microsoft's new software is not simply a redesigned version of its older Windows Mobile software; Windows Phone 7 actually looks nothing at all like Windows Mobile. Its main feature is Tiles, which are large, square icons that can serve as shortcuts (to apps, Web pages, or even social networks) and can display constantly changing information.
Users can swipe screens to the left and right, just as you can on an iPhone or an Android phone.
How It's Organized
Windows Phone 7 uses a system of hubs to keep its content organized. The hubs are designed to "bring together related content from the Web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks," Microsoft says. Windows Phone 7 includes six hubs, with the following themes: People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace, and Office.
The Games hub offers what Microsoft says is 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." The Music + Video hub, meanwhile, "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," Microsoft says.
What About the Apps?
It won't surprise you to hear that Microsoft's mobile OS comes with built-in Microsoft Office apps. You get mobile versions of Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote, all of which include editing features.
You also get access to the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which is Microsoft's app store. The selection can't rival that of the iPhone's App Store, but it does help you find apps that are compatible with your Windows Phone 7 handset.
Microsoft's new OS is launching without a few key features, including cut and paste (though Microsoft says that will be added in early 2011) and multi-tasking for third-party apps.
Stay tuned for a full review of Windows Phone 7 as soon as the software is available.