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MWC 2010: Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Series

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While the Web is awash with talk of Microsoft's next generation of Windows Mobile, the real question is: is it any good? Well, let's take a look.


Rechristened 'Windows Phone 7 Series' (wordy, I know), the latest in the company's much derided platform has been under intense scrutiny, but it might just pull it off. In short Windows Phone Series 7 is a brave and radical reinvention of the Windows Mobile OS and is unrecognisable from previous editions. As expected, it now has the look of a slick combination of Zune HD and Xbox 360 UIs and the theme feisty MS CEO Steve Ballmer was keen to stress was "consistency of experience".

The hardware
Seems a strange place to start, but Microsoft is actually now regulating exactly what hardware Windows Phone 7 Series can be deployed on. This takes the form of an official minimum specifications list, though Microsoft wasn't sharing that at this point. What we do know is every WP7S (had to be done) handset will need to have a capacitive, four-point multi-touch display with at least an HVGA native resolution, optimised Qualcomm core chipset with accelerated graphics and three physical keys on the phone's facia: 'Start', 'Back' and 'Search'.

This may seem out of character and indeed somewhat despotic, but Microsoft is desperate to ensure a guaranteed level of performance and a more consistent platform for apps developers so it gets my seal of approval.

The Homescreen
The homepage of WPS7 is now made up of dynamic and customisable 'Live Tiles' which lead off to the usual shortcuts, but are also synced online to bring the latest relevant information: weather shows current temperature, calendar your next appointment, etc etc. Contacts follow the well worn route of aggregating with Facebook (Microsoft calls this a 'People Hub'), but go a step further in individually listing their most recent social media activity and replies to this can be posted directly from here. It's rather neat.

Browsing
The ominous phrase 'based on the same architecture as Internet Explorer for your PC" was rolled out, but this does mean we get full rendering browser with pinch-to-zoom and multi-touch support. A new form of text enhancement called 'sub pixel positioning' is in there too which Microsoft regards as the successor to Clear Type and it does produce fantastically sharp text that is easy to read on a small screen.

Office
Not enough information here, but Microsoft will be integrating OneNote for note taking and syncing documents between Word and Sharepoint on the desktop. More handy Cloud implementation is here, though we do wait to see just how much flexibility in terms of editing and document creation will be provided.

Mail
Much tighter Outlook integration with the ability to swipe between read and unread mail, the ability to label urgent emails and flag up key messages. Personally I'd like to see wider support for other email provider's key features such as Gmail labelling, but it is another step in the right direction.

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