By >Akihabara News Team
Windows Mobile is dead, long live Windows Phone 7
Yesterday was the official launch of the much awaited Window Phone 7, the successor and replacement of the ancient and often cumbersome Windows Mobile. Announced yesterday, the new smartphone OS is already setting the tech world afire with speculations, enthusiasm and criticism. “User friendly” was the goal, did they reach it?
Live Tiles and Hubs
Right from the the start screen, the change in mindset is obvious. The Live Tiles, “quickly customized and constantly updated” as Microsoft put it, seem like a fairly efficient way to keep all necessary info within reach: emails, appointments, news, weather announcements — you name it, Live Tiles has it.
Windows 7 Mobile, unlike say, iOS or Android, is organized in “Hubs” rather than in apps: in non-Microsoft vernacular, we’d call those “hubs” categories. Clearly, here Microsoft is aiming for the non-geek segment of the population and trying out a new approach: sorting applications according to how people think of them rather than keeping them independent. Whether the more tech-savvy crowd will take to this “all-in-one” approach remains to be seen, but I’m pretty sure most people will appreciate the simplicity. Also, multitouch support!
Two very dark points: no multitasking and no copy/paste. Yes, seriously. (Apparently an update to add simple text copy/past is on the way, though we’re not holding our breaths.)
Under the Hub “People”, you find Facebook profiles mingling with phone numbers and email addresses, enabling users to dial a contact, post Facebook updates or replies, change their Windows Live status or whatever — all in a single app.
I just have one question, really: Where the devil is integrated Twitter support?
Internet and apps: true and tried classics
As far internet browsing goes, better brace yourselves folks, Internet Explorer ain’t going anywhere. But cheer up: Windows Phone 7 also brings Office and Outlook in its bags, and if the hands-on reviews are anything to go by, both apps look pretty fab. The integrated calendar makes the iPhone version seem tragically drab in comparison! There’s also a seamless search function, but well, it’s Bing. Whether you find that a good thing or not depends greatly on your opinion of Microsoft’s search engine, but the option to use voice commands sounds neat (here in Japan we’re wondering how well they’ll export the very localized searches, though).
Gaming: Xbox LIVE on the go
The Games hub is actually the Xbox LIVE service, except on your phone. Don’t expect to play Red Dead Redemption on your Windows Phone any time soon, though – more like Bejeweled Live or Uno, and yes, EA star-products like the Sims 3 or Need for Speed. Still, you can log in with your Xbox LIVE account, unlock achievements and play online with your friends.
Media player: Windows is in the Zune
Not unlike the iPod app on the iPhone (okay, totally like it), the Music and Video Hub is simply the Zune HD, with all that implies. At any rate, you can listen to your favorite songs and playlists as well as FM radio or podcasts, watch TV series and movies. And DRM-ed music on demand is available for a monthly subscription fee.
Marketplace Hub: all your shopping in one place
Microsoft intends to make the most of its homegrown iStore by streamlining the buying process as much as possible: music, videos, apps, games all in one place, with one-click billing to your credit card or (clever little devils that they are!) directly to your phone bill.
Pictures and camera
Well, it’s a camera. It takes pictures and sorts them into folders. All sarcasm aside, apparently it can take pictures even when the phone is locked, which sounds pretty nifty to me (taking pics with an iPhone is *not* what I’d call a fun experience).
Overall? Windows Mobile 7 is a definite step toward usability and user-friendliness, interactivity and aesthetics — hindered by somewhat unexplainable missing features, like multitasking, copy/paste or seamless Twitter integration. If they correct those mistakes before launch, Microsoft could cause serious headaches to Apple and Google in the near future. Just sayin’.