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Windows Phone 7: the important bits

Today saw the release of the first in-depth previews of Microsoft's next-generation mobile operating system Windows Phone 7. The problem is, I don't really care about the screen, or indeed any of the hardware. I'm not interested in half the things that Engadget or ZDNet have to say about the phone: I'm just interested in what the software -- the operating system -- enables the phone to do. I figured you might be the same -- after all, who wants to dig through a dozen pages of pictures and flavourless prose when everything you want to know can be boiled down to a bunch of bullet points?

So, here's what Windows Phone 7 means for you, the software-enthusiast end-user:
  • Using Windows Phone 7 will be very smooth -- there is a lot less emphasis on applications. You won't 'start the camera app' and then 'start the messaging app' to send a photo. You will just take a photo and then send it to a friend. As ZDNet puts it, the emphasis will be on how you interact with people rather than apps -- which is rather fitting, given our contemporary love affair with social interaction.
  • The Start screen is still alive -- but unlike other mobile platforms where your home screen is merely dotted with app icons, you can create quick access buttons to almost anything, including your favourite songs or contacts. Being able to open an instant messenger chat with your best friend from the Start screen is pretty darn cool.
  • Applications are going to be wider -- on WP7 you will find words trailing off the edge of the screen. Apparently it's a very natural cue that encourages you to swipe left or right to access the next page. I suggest you watch Engadget's video to see how this actually works in practice. Personally, I love the change: moving from a wide-screen desktop display to a hyper-portrait mobile phone is never pleasant.
  • Much more stringent hardware requirements -- no surprise here, I guess. Windows Phone 7 has a (very sexy) list of minimum hardware requirements, including a multi-touch 800x480 screen and a flash-equipped camera. (Check the ZDNet article for a full list.)
  • There will be no external storage on WP7 phones -- OK, this one's a surprise! I guess this is to please app developers and content providers... but time will tell! (Incidentally, WP7 phones must have a minimum of 8GB internal storage.)
  • Hubs -- this is Windows Phone 7's shining glory. There are different kinds of hubs: People, Pictures, Games, Music + Videos, Marketplace and Office. Without going into exact details, these hubs provide easy access to every kind of media. In the case of Pictures, it shows your local camera photos, and your photos from Facebook. Games will contain all of the juicy Xbox Arcade/XNA games that also work on the WP7. For more details on how the hubs work, watch ZDNet's video.
  • Configuration, settings -- like Android, Windows Phone 7 has a consolidated, global 'settings' menu where you can alter any setting for any application. Hooray!
I think that about covers it all. Overall, reviewers and developers are concluding that Windows Phone 7 is polished, fluid and very easy to use. In fact, most complaints seem to be about the lack of copy-and-paste and true multi-tasking. Sure, Microsoft isn't quite finished, but with WP7 phones due to arrive this winter, the platform must be very nearly feature-complete. I think it's safe to say that Windows Phone 7 will not debut with either a clipboard or multi-tasking.

Never mind! The iPhone still did very well without either of those features.
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Tags: features, mobile, operating system, OperatingSystem, osupdates, windows, windows mobile, windows phone 7, WindowsMobile, WindowsPhone7, wp7

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