HubsThe next most obvious elements of Windows Phone 7 are its six Hubs; Marketplace, Office, People, Pictures, Xbox Live and Zune . These are basically just the core apps of the phone but, as Microsoft has integrated a number of other services that are common to all the apps, like social networking, they have a distinct look and feel to the rest of the apps available and are quite distinct from anything you'll see on other platforms.
For each hub you're presented with a side scrolling pane of options. The first pane contains what you'd call the normal functions, while swiping right and left gets you to various other more integrated options. So, for instance, the Zune hub initially presents you with a conventional list of Music, Video, Podcasts and the like, but scroll right and you get sections headed History, New, and Apps where you can see what you've recently listened to, what new tracks you can download or stream – yes, you can stream music straight from the Zune store – or manage your multimedia apps like iPlayer.
Looking at some of the other hubs, People provides you first and foremost with a list of your contacts just like any phone, but then swipe along and you can access Recent and What's New. What's New is a feed for all your friend's social networking activity, so it displays a continual stream of Facebook and Windows Live info (Windows Live can also collate data from LinkedIn and MySpace).
While we're on the subject, social network integration is a major part of the Windows Phone 7 experience with it tightly integrated into the people section, allowing you to send replies and updates to various services without leaving the hub. Likewise you can see a stream of pictures from your friends in the Pictures hub and upload photos straight from the camera.
All told the hub concept seems to work quite well, giving you access to the normal features you'd expect of any given app and providing extra information in an easier and faster manner than any other rival platform we can think of. Again we can see potential problems with it being a bit restrictive if you tend to use a lot of different apps or prefer to manage things your own way, but until we've had more time with a handset it's difficult to say.