I had seen the launch at Mobile World Congress but to be honest had not taken much notice. The concept looked a lot like Vodafone 360 and there were no handsets to play with (not counting the six foot mockup of course).
Look and Feel
I was impressed by the marketing.
What do Android, iPhone (iOS), Nokia (Symbian, touchscreen), Samsung (Bada) all have in common? They are all based on an icon grid structure, all to some extent following iPhones lead. Taking the iPhone as an example the icons in general are not dynamic or information led, except for the calendar icon which has today’s date on it. According to the weather icon it is always 23° and sunny, which is obviously not always the case.
So Microsoft wanted to break the mould. Wanted to do something iconic. So what better place to start than the iconography around us that we see everyday and are familiar with, motorway and airport signs. Most people will instantly know if they are in airport what the sign in front of them is trying to convey not matter where they are or what the language.
The devices will be based on three hardware specs that Windows phone 7 will support, each have a specific pixel count and orientation (think iPhone, Blackberry and Milestone like devices) and minimum hardware requirement (at least a 1Ghz Snapdragon from Qualcomm). Other requirements include 256MB of RAM, 8GB of Flash and 2GB of file storage. Only Operators and OEM’s will be able to write natively for the devices. Anyone else wanting to write apps for the devices will have to utilise Silverlight or XNA (XBox integration) for games.
Facebook will be heavily integrated at launch for contacts etc. There will be no HTML5 or flash support. Obviously Silverlight will be supported from day one. Sub pixel rendering will be utilised during browser zoom to stop the fuzzy edges around the text.
Music and video services wil be provided the Zune integration that has been done.
Microsoft obviously supports the Microsoft Marketplace in terms of its app store. There will be a ‘Try’ feature on the store that allows you to try the app before you purchase. The rationale behind this is to get rid of the necessity of free apps so there will be less apps on the store. There will be a 7 day SLA for acceptance into the Marketplace. Ad supported apps will be available. All apps will be downloaded to the handset as there will be no sideloading.
Location services (maps) will be provided by the Bing.
All in all I was very impressed by what I saw and what I heard, with a well thought out attempt at relaunching their mobile OS. The proof will be in the usability and we will not really get a feel for that until the devices launch.