Today Microsoft previewed the next major release of Windows Phone. Codenamed Mango, the update will bring more than 500 new features to the growing platform. It aims to make the mobile operating system “smarter and easier” by injecting new life into the communications, apps and Internet experiences. In order, shall we?
Communications: (1) Deeper social network integration: In addition to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into contact cards. (2) Threads: Now you can easily switch between SMS, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation. In other words, conversations can be had across various messaging platforms. For example, if you begin a conversation with friend at home over Facebook chat you can continue this conversation when you’re on the go via SMS and the back-and-forth banter will be streamlined in the same conversation window. (3) Groups: You can group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see your friends’ latest status updates from the home screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to a whole group. For example, you can create a “family” group and store your parents and siblings inside a Live Tile. From there you can easily converse with them under one roof or check their social status updates. (4) Linked inbox: Now you can see multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Also, email now supports threading and calendar Facebook events. (5) Hands-free messaging: Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting. If you’re listening to music and receive a text the phone will read the incoming message aloud to you. Then you can speak a reply and the phone will convert your speech into text and send it off.
Apps: (1) Multitasking: It’s been a long time coming–with Mango you can quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background. (2) Improved Live Tiles: Live Tiles pinned to the home screen can hold more information and allow you to get real-time information from apps without having to open them. For example, if there’s an HDTV you’ve been saving up for you pin a Best Buy product page to your home screen and it will live there as a dynamic Live Tile. Instead of just sitting there as a simple bookmark, the Live Tile will animate and inform you when the TV is in stock and how far away it is for pickup. (3) App Connect: Apps can be tied tightly together to search results and Hubs to make for a smarter and more intuitive experience. For example with Bing Vision (more on this below) you can scan a book, see information about it, and with a single tap jump into the Amazon Kindle Store and purchase the book there and start reading.
Internet: (1) Internet Explorer 9: The updated browser supports HTML5 and full hardware acceleration. Unfortunately Flash and Silverlight support still isn’t here yet. (2) Local Scout: This new integrated service provides “hyperlocal search results” and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy-to-use guide. When you enter Bing search, you can click the new Scout icon, the phone will automatically determine your location, and then it will provide you with information directly related to where you are instantly. Data is separated into the following categories: eat+drink, see+do, shop, favorites, and highlights. (3) Bing Vision: Also in Bing search you will find the icon for Bing Vision, another new integrated experience that allows you to capture a tangible product and get more information about it. It’s like Google Goggles, but it’s limited to barcodes, QR codes, book, DVD, and music covers. What’s neat is that the decoding process is nearly instant. Once you’re inside Bing Vision, the phone’s camera is turned on and all you have to do is point it at a product and results are revealed (pricing, availability, and relevant apps to learn more about the product at hand). (4) Quick Cards: When searching for a product, movie, event or place in the browser, you will see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps, presented to you. For example, if you search “Pirates of the Caribbean” you will be presented with movie times at local theatres, plot synopsis, a means to purchase tickets, etc.
With Mango Microsoft plans to expand the Windows Phone ecosystem through new partnerships with Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE and support for additional languages. The following handset manufacturers are confirmed to deploy Mango devices: in addition to the aforementioned new partnerships, Samsung, LG, HTC, and Nokia. That’s right, the first batch of Nokia phones following Microsoft’s strategic alliance with the Finnish company will run the Mango update. Developers will soon be able to get their inventive hands on the free Windows Phone Developer tools featuring Mango (within the next 24 hours, Microsoft promises). And when can consumers expect to see the update hit their Windows Phones? It pains me to say that Microsoft plans to unleash Mango as an over-the-air update this fall. Why the dreadful wait? Beats me. At least fragmentation is being avoided. Microsoft says that all existing Windows Phone 7 devices will receive the update in due time, and all future handsets will come loaded with the latest version on board.
Jump after the break to watch Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrate a bunch of the new features described here. As exciting and forward-looking as they may be, the wait until autumn is a wrench in the system. By the time Mango is released who knows what kind of magical dust will be spewing from Apple’s latest creation that will be iOS5.
Update: A curious commenter asked about copy and paste functionality. This long-awaited feature was added to Windows Phone 7 back in late March under the update codenamed NoDo. It goes without saying that it will carry over to all devices that receive the Mango upgrade.
The month of May is a big one for Big Red. Shortly after introducing the 4G-powered Droid Charge in late April, Verizon Wireless is adding three more intriguing smartphones to its arsenal. First up is the long-awaited successor to the Droid X, the appropriately titled Droid X2. This Droid packs a giant 4.3-inch scratch-resistant and anti-reflective qHD display and a speedy dual-core 1GHz processor–this is the first VZW phone to carry such a chip. Other specs include an eight megapixel camera with autofocus and HD video capture (a front-facing cam is noticeably absent here), HDMI output, and mobile hotspot capabilities with up to five WiFi-enabled devices. The X2 will come preloaded with Android 2.2, and the carrier promises an upgrade to 2.3 is coming soon. It lands on Verizon this Thursday the 26th of May at the usual $199.99 price point under a new two-year contract.
Let’s breeze through handset #2. We already know all about the Xperia Play, aka the “PlayStation Phone.” The phone released earlier this spring internationally, and come May 26 the PlayStation Certified Android 2.3-powered device will be available for US consumers for $199.99. It will come preloaded with seven game titles including Madden NFL 11, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, The Sims 3, Star Battalion, Crash Bandicoot, and Tetris. Available for preorder today. Read all about Sony Ericsson’s gaming-oriented phone right here.
So many firsts for Verizon, let’s recap: The Charge became the inaugural device to bring 4G speeds to the Droid brand, the Droid X2 is the carrier’s first dual-core phone, and Verizon is the first US carrier to offer the Xperia Play. And now there’s this: later this month HTC’s Trophy drops on Big Red to become the first Windows Phone 7 device to run on the nation’s largest network. Want specs? Got ’em. The ruggedly designed Trophy features a 3.8-inch screen, 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, five megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash that captures 720p HD video, 16 GB onboard storage, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, and SRS WOW HD surround sound built in. The world phone’s loaded with Microsoft’s Metro-infused OS and HTC’s customizable Hub. On sale May 26 for $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and if you climb aboard Verizon’s ‘waves for 2 years, of course.
This week Microsoft let loose the first major Windows Phone 7 update for those branded handsets. Codenamed NoDo, the update brings copy & paste functionality and among other improvements including faster load and resume times for apps, refined Marketplace search, WiFi, Outlook, messaging, camera, and audio improvements, and better Facebook integration. Click the source link below to read more about the update, or simply wait for your WP7 device to notify you about the download.
Update: Haven’t received the update yet? Well that’s because Microsoft is rolling it out gradually depending on your location and device. Check your status here and learn more about the rollout process here.
When Microsoft unleashed its sleek, new mobile OS unto the world back in October 2010, it did so only on GSM carriers in the U.S. including AT&T and T-Mobile. Come next month, Windows Phone 7 will finally become available on a CDMA network. No, not Verizon, I’m talking about Sprint, the “Now Network.” The handset is dubbed the Arrive, it’s built by HTC, and here are its specs: 3.6-inch WVGA capacitive multitouch display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 5MP camera with flash, autofocus, and digital zoom capable of 720p HD recording, 16GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, and of course a sliding full QWERTY keyboard with a tilt-up display. Oh and get this–the Arrive will be the first phone to ship with the upcoming WP7 update that brings copy-and-paste functionality to the OS. You can pick up the Arrive on March 20 for $199.99 (after $100 mail-in rebate) if you sign a new two-year contract with Sprint. Get a closer look at the sexy slider in the gallery below, and jump after the break for the official PR. Verizon Wireless customers will have to wait another day to experience “Glance and Go” goodness.
[Via Engadget](Click here for more…)
This week Microsoft hosted a Windows Phone 7 themed press event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. There they spent time refreshing people’s minds about what differentiates Windows Phone 7 from the rest of the competition; namely they went over the mobile operating system’s smart design, hubs, and glance-and-go live tiles–all of which you should already know about. A chunk of the event, however, also spent time previewing the future of WP7. Multitasking, Internet Explorer 9, broader Skydrive connectivity, and Twitter integration are all coming to the OS later this year; get all the details presented in easy to swallow bullet-point form below.
- Multitasking: At launch Microsoft decided not to allow multitasking support for third party apps due to battery life concerns. But now that’s changed because the company has figured out a way to make multitasking work without significantly draining the battery. At the event Microsoft demoed switching in and out of a game. Say you’re playing a game and want to make a phone call. To jump out of gameplay and initiate a call, simply tap the Home button, select the appropriate hub and make the call. After the call is complete, tap the Back button and you’ll instantly be returned to your game. You’ll find that the game automatically paused itself, so you can to resume the session without missing any in-game action. Microsoft also figured out an intuitive way to view open apps at once and quickly switch between them. Press and hold the Back button to bring up a new tasking switching view that displays your open apps in a card-like fashion (think WebOS). You can swipe left and right to see your open apps and tap one to instantly return to it right where you left off. Microsoft highlighted multitasking with third party music apps, too. Music can now play in the background (yippe!). Microsoft demoed Slacker; now you can play a radio station inside Slacker, initiate the task switching view, jump into another app like Email, and the music will continue to play in the background. In addition, music apps are tied to WP7 audio controls, meaning that you can control a third party app’s volume and playback options (play/pause/forward/back) using WP7’s built-in audio controls that are accessible on the home screen when you press the hardware volume buttons.
- Internet Explorer 9: The next version of IE is coming to WP7. IE 9 will bring hardware and graphics acceleration to the platform, taking advantage of those speedy mobile processors that are making their way into smartphones. Microsoft pressed the point that the core browsing engine in IE9 that ships on PCs is the same core browsing engine that will ship on phones. This is good for developers because if their site performs well on the PC, they know it will work well on Windows Phone. HTML5 content was distinctly prominent in the demo with no mention of Adobe’s initiative, so don’t expect Flash support to come with this update.
- Skydrive connectivity: Skydrive is to WP7 as iDisk is to iPhone. Get it? Skydrive is essentialy Microsoft’s version of Dropbox which allows users to view, edit, and share documents in the cloud on their devices. Skydrive will live inside the Office hub (so there’s no separate app download required) and it brings support for Office documents in the cloud. If you’re already logged into your Windows Live account, there’s no need to login in to access the cloud drive at any time.
- Twitter integration: Since launch Microsoft has incorporated Facebook status updates and pictures in the People and Pictures hubs, respectively. With the new update they are welcoming another social network into the fray. Twitter integration is coming to the People hub where it will co-exist with Facebook in a similar manner to it; your contact’s tweets will appear alongside their status updates.
That’s the bulk of new WP7 features demoed at the MWC event. However, there are three other points to make. (1) At the event Microsoft briefly previewed a futuristic demo that ties together WP7 with Xbox’s controller-less motion accessory Kinect. The prerecorded demo featured the Kinect game Rally Ball and it showed one person standing up flailing their arms at the oncoming storm of rubber balls and two others using their WP7 devices to wirelessly control the amount and location of the balls on their respective device’s screens. In essence this is a preview of real-time cross-platform gaming between phones and game consoles, and it’s a neat trick to say the least. Look after the break to see it in action. (2) Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer invited Nokia’s Stephen Elop to discuss the newly formed partnership between the two tech companies. Elop pretty much reiterated everything he previously mentioned at his own event, but some choice quotes stuck out here. He said, “Microsoft and Nokia together represent a natural partnership. People are getting it.” The world is shifting from “a battle of devices to a war of ecosystems” and that with Microsoft they can become a competitive force in this transforming environment. Nokia will “accelerate the adoption of the Windows Phone platform” by “bring[ing] iconic hardware [and] incredible industrial design [to] a leading operating system.” (3) Coming in early March is copy-and-paste functionality (along with CDMA radio support (hello Verizon and Sprint devices), and other performance improvements)!
Go on, hop after the break to find videos demonstrating multitasking, IE 9, and the Kinect companionship.
Bombshell alert! Nokia is ditching its homemade mobile operating systems (read: Symbian and MeeGo) for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. Today Nokia’s newly appointed CEO Stephen Elop announced that the Finnish company will enter into a “strategic alliance” with Microsoft that will make Windows Phone 7 Nokia’s “principal smartphone strategy.” Elop is hopeful that the marriage between these two companies will result in “a new global mobile ecosystem” based around Nokia’s hardware design and Microsoft’s software architecture. Says the official press release: “Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.”
They’ve also addressed how Nokia’s services will mesh with WP7. Bing will power Nokia’s search services across Nokia devices; Microsoft adCenter will provide search advertising services on Nokia’s line of devices; and Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. Nokia’s previously announced Qt development framework will not provided to developers to make apps for Nokia WP7 devices; instead they will be working with Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Tools. Ovi Store, Nokia’s content and application store, will integrate with Windows Marketplace.
In a stock exchange release, Nokia lays out their future. “[They] expect 2011 and 2012 to be transition years, as the company invests to build the planned winning ecosystem with Microsoft.” The transition is expected to begin immediately (in fact, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer publicly stated that the WP7 engineering team has been working closely with Nokia hardware designers for some time now) and Nokia hopes to start shipping WP7-powered devices in significant volume by 2012.
What’s going to happen to Symbian and MeeGo, you ask? Nokia expects to continue to sell many Symbian powered devices in the coming years, but the long-term plan is to eventually and quite abruptly kill off the platform as soon as the WP7 devices make their way into the marketplace. MeeGo, on the other hand, will “become an open-source, mobile operating system project.” Though Nokia plans to ship the first MeeGo based device later this year, they see the brand “not as part of another broad smarpthone platform strategy, but as an opportunity to learn” (read: an experimental platform to help drive future innovation).
To the dismay of the majority of Finnish engineers, I am excited about Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft. To be frank, Symbian and (especially) MeeGo were taking an interminable amount of time to develop and catch up to the competition (read: iOS, Android). It is interesting to note that Nokia was contemplating an alliance with Google to bring the Android platform to Nokia devices, but in the end, says Elop, his company “would have difficulty differentiating within that ecosystem” and the “commoditization risk was very high–prices, profits, everything being pushed down, value being moved out to Google which was concerning to us.” I think this is the perfect marriage, really. Nokia is known for making beautifully detailed, sophisticated hardware and Microsoft’s newborn sleek WP7 OS seems like a natural fit. After years of being stuck in a rut, it was time to shake up the chain of command and with Elop in charge it’s clear to see that he’s a staunch believer in steadfast change, even if it means dropping everything (on the software side) for something starkly different and exciting. I’m looking forward to what Nokia and Microsoft cook up in the coming years. If you want a hint at whats to come, hop after the break to see a mockup of Nokia/WP7 conceptual devices scored exclusively by Engadget. Also there you’ll find a related video spelling out the day’s shattering news.
In an interview posted on the company’s website, Microsoft’s corporate VP of Mobile Communications Business and Marketing Group Achim Berg spilled that “phone manufacturers sold over 1.5 million [Windows Phone 7] phones in the first six weeks” since the October launch. I added bold formatting there for a reason. This sales figure is not as effective or all that impressive as you might think. Rather than specifying the actual number of devices sold to end users, they are hiding that sales figure and replacing it with the number of units sold to mobile carriers and cell phone retailers. In a word, this is baloney. I mean, this figure is not incorrect; it’s just that it makes it hard for us to genuinely know how well Microsoft is doing with its new mobile OS. Perhaps they are reluctant to revealing the actual number of units sold to customers because that number isn’t as high as they expected. But Berg’s words counter that logic; he says, “Sales are ramping well as our reputation is growing for offering users a unique experience and are in line with our expectations – especially when compared to other new platform introductions.” So why not tell us like it is? Oh well, all we can do is sit and wait for a celebratory Microsoft press release to help us make sense of the massive 60 carriers/over 30 countries WP7 launch.
And that makes 5. Dell’s Venue Pro is now for sale on its website and now Microsoft can safely say that all five of its Windows Phone 7 US launch devices are now available for purchase. Specs are nothing to call home about: 4.1 inch display, 1GHz processor, 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus and flash, 720p HD video recording, 8GB or 16GB of built-in storage. It’s that full slide-out QWERTY keyboard and its handsome looks that make this one a charmer. If you’re willing to start a new 2-year contract with T-Mobile you can pick up the phone for $99 (8GB) or $149 (16GB). Or you can pay $449 or $499, respectively, if you decide to opt out of signing a contract. Purchase here; it ships December 9.
Just one week ago three Windows Phone 7 powered devices hit the U.S. market–the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround found a home in AT&T and the HTC HD7 teamed with T-Mobile. Today the LG Quantum rounds out the AT&T trifecta of WP7 launch devices. Nothing crazy here: 3.5 inch display, 1GHz processor, full slide-out horizontal QWERTY keyboard, 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus, flash, 16GB of built-in storage, and 720p HD video recording, and DLNA streaming support. Plus 10 free apps will be waiting for you to download; they’re available through the LG app store within the Windows Phone Marketplace. All this for $199.99 on a new two-year contract. Shipping today. Full PR after the break.
If you’re an early adopter of the Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system and a proud owner of a SlingBox, listen here! What was hinted at back in October has been made available to purchase–SlingPlayer for WP7 devices. Jump into the Windows Marketplace and you’ll find SlingPlayer Mobile for $29.99. Select, download, and let the streaming festivities begin. Full PR after the break.
iPad owners, SlingPlayer is coming for you too.
Of the ten Windows Phone 7 launch devices, three of them are making their way into the States today. AT&T’s got the Samsung Focus and the HTC Surround, and T-Mobile offers the HTC HD7. All three devices cost $199.99 after signing a 2-year contract, or $500 if you decide to opt out of the contract before purchasing. Bet you’re wondering about the other two U.S. WP7 phones, both of which include slideout QWERTY keyboard. AT&T’s LG Quantum is up for preorder now at $199.99, and the Dell Venue Pro is still marked as “coming soon”, though it’s expected to hit stores on 11/17 for $199.99 on contract. As usual, this space will be updated when the official word hits the streets.
Microsoft’s totally revamped, moderntastic mobile OS has finally arrived people! Will you be one of the early adopters to give one of the launch handsets a spin? Brush up with specs and features here.
Check out this brief video demonstration of SlingPlayer running on Windows Phone 7. Full access to your set-top box content and controls is coming to Microsoft’s spankin’ new OS “soon.”
Windows Phone 7: 10 devices, 4 launch hardware partners, 60 mobile carriers in over 30 countries worldwide; coming 10/21 in Europe & Asia, early November in U.S.
Today Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage in New York City to reveal the final details surrounding the launch of Windows Phone 7. Microsoft first unveiled their new cell phone operating system in February at Mobile World Congress; next they spotlighted developer support at MIX’10; and most recently they detailed Xbox Live integration. All there was left to do is reveal launch harware and mobile operator partners and device release dates and pricing. And that’s exactly what went down today in NYC.
Let’s start with the Windows Phone 7 launch hardware partners and the actual devices you might potentially pick up come this holiday season. Samsung, LG, HTC, and Dell are collectively bringing ten new devices that will run WP7. The Samsung Focus (codenamed Cetus) features a 4-inch (480×800) Super AMOLED display, 1GHz processor, 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, and 8GB of onboard storage with microSD expansion up to 32GB. It’s the thinnest WP7 launch device measuring at 9.9mm (or .3 inches) thin. It will launch exclusively with AT&T in the U.S. The Samsung Omnia 7 features the same 4-inch (480×800) Super AMOLED display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, and 8GB of onboard storage. It will launch with Orange (France and UK), SFR (France), Movistar (Spain), and Deutsch Telekom on November 8. The LG Quantum (or Optimus 7Q outside the U.S.) features a 3.5 inch (480×800) display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, 8GB of onboard storage, a slideout QWERTY keyboard, and it comes preloaded with PlayTo, an app that allows users to wirelessly stream content to DLNA-enabled devices. It will launch exclusively with AT&T in the U.S. and with Telstra in Australia. The LG Optimus 7 features a 3.8 inch (480×800) LCD display, 1GHz processor, 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, and 16GB of onboard storage. It will launch with Telus (Canada), América Móvil (Mexico), Movistar (Spain), Vodafone (Germany, Italy, Spain and UK), and SingTel (Singapore).
HTC is launching five WP7-powered devices. The HTC HD7 features a 4.3 inch (480×800) display (it’s the WP7 launch device with the largest display), 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 576MB of RAM, 5 megapixel autofocus camera with dual LED flash (supports HD 720p video recording), 16GB of onboard memory, built-in kickstand, and it comes preloaded with Netflix, Slacker, T-Mobile Family Room (a note-taking sharing app), and a T-Mobile TV entertainment app. It will launch exclusively with T-Mobile in the U.S. in mid-November and with O2 (UK, Germany, Ireland), Movistar (Spain), SingTel (Singapore), Telstra (Australia), and Bouygues Telecom (France) on October 21. The HTC 7 Surround features a 3.8 inch (480×800) display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 576MB of RAM, 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash (supports HD 720p video recording), built-in kickstand, and 8GB of onboard storage. What makes this device standout from all the others is the slideout speaker that features Dolby Mobile and SRS Surround Sound technologies. It will launch exclusively with AT&T in the U.S. and with Telus in Canada. The HTC 7 Pro will be the first WP7 CDMA device and will launch exclusively with Sprint in the first half of 2011. It features a 3.6 inch (400×800) display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 576MB of RAM, 5 megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash (supports HD 720p video recording), 16GB of onboard storage, and a slideout QWERTY keyboard. Update: The 7 Pro will arrive in Europe “early next year.” The HTC 7 Mozart and HTC 7 Trophy are two WP7 handsets that will not (initially, at least) not make it to the U.S. market. They both feature a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 576MB of RAM, 8GB of built-in storage, and HD 720p video recording. Here’s where they differ. The Mozart features a sleek aluminum unibody construction with a 3.7-inch (480×800) display and 8 megapixel camera with a Xenon flash. The Trophy, on the other hand, features a slightly larger 3.8 inch (480×800) display and a slightly lesser 5 megapixel camera with LED flash. The Mozart with launch with Orange (France and UK), Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Telstra (Australia) and the Trophy will launch with Vodafone (Australia, Germany, Spain and UK) and SFR (France).
And finally there’s the Dell Venue Pro. It features a 4.1-inch (480×800) AMOLED display, 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 5 megapixel camera with flash, and a portrait-designed QWERTY keyboard. It will launch exclusively with T-Mobile in the U.S.
And that’s a wrap on the hardware discussion. As you can see, all ten WP7 devices are very similar in terms of internals: the 1GHz processor, the 5 megapixel camera, the 8GB-16GB internal storage, 3.5 inch to 4.3 displays, and the handful of slideout QWERTY keyboard-equipped models. Through the end of the year, WP7 devices will be exclusive to AT&T and T-Mobile; this leaves a wide gap in the CDMA (Verizon/Sprint) playing field. By the time Q1 of 2011 rolls around, Microsoft better have deals finalized with the other mobile carriers if they truly want to compete in the competitive smartphone market. Also, hardware partners will eventually have to up their game with better and differentiating specifications and designs if they want to stay relevant. HTC is doing a fine job so far with the 7 Surround speaker design the HD7’s large 4.3 inch display. But for now, the WP7 starting lineup is quite impressive. The stars are certainly aligning for a successful launch.
In addition to revealing hardware and mobile carrier partners, Microsoft also shared some information regarding software developments. Though they weren’t specific about the exact number of launch apps for Windows Marketplace, they did show off bunch of promising apps. They include Twitter, eBay, Fandango, Netflix, Slacker, IMDb, and games such as Tetris, The Sims 3, Monopoly, Need for Speed: Undercover, and The Harvest. AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega was on hand to show off the AT&T U-verse app. The app will be preloaded on all AT&T WP7 devices and will allow users to download and watch TV shows on the go. If you are already a U-verse subscriber at home, accessing and downloading content off the app is free. You will have the ability to manage your DVR recordings, access TV guide listings and an On Demand library. If you are not a subscriber, AT&T will offer a $9.99/month plan to watch TV on the go when WP7 launches wide in November. (Keep in mind, “live” TV is not available; you are simply downloading content to watch now or later.) In related news, AT&T has confirmed that Xbox 360 owners will have the ability to use their console as a U-verse receiver starting October 15. New subscribers can order a $99 Xbox installation kit and a technician will load the software onto the console for you; current subscribers will be forced to pay an extra $55 on top of the $99 installation kit to make the switch from set-top box to Xbox. And here’s one last software tidbit: Microsoft promises a free software update bringing copy-and-paste functionality to all WP7 devices will be pushed out in “early 2011.” Update: In a statement Microsoft confirms that public beta software will be available for Mac users to sync “select content” with their WP7 device later this year. Look after the break for the first two WP7 commercials!
Apple, Google, RIM…it’s on.
iPhone, Android, BlackBerry–watch out. WP7 is almost here.
With the launch of Windows Phone 7 just around the corner (Microsoft says Holidays 2010, other sources hint as early as October), it is about time Microsoft further detailed its Xbox Live gaming initiative on the forthcoming mobile platform. If you own an Xbox 360 and have an Xbox Live account, navigating the Xbox Live gaming hub on a Window Phone 7 device will be a very familiar experience. The first “tab” within the hub is named Profile and it stores your Xbox Live avatar, gamerscore, and message notifications. Your avatar can be interacted with by tapping on it, shaking the phone, and spinning the phone in various orientations. If you select the message notifications icon, you will be brought to the Messages tab where you’ll find a list of text and voice messages left by your Xbox Live friends. You can send and receive messages on your device in real time just as you would on the console. There’s also an Achievements tab that shows you all of your collected acheivements, categorized by game, on the phone and console. You can tap a game title to view the specific achievements awarded within each game to see when you received them; you can then select a specific achievement to see how you received it. The Friends tab congregates a bunch of your Friends’ avatars; tap anywhere on this screen to bring up your friends list. You can see who is on and offline, what games your friends are currently playing, view friends’ acheivements, and compare your achievements to a specific friend’s achievement list. If you click a friends’ gamertag from the list his (or her) avatar will fly on screen and you can view personal information like gamerscore, location, and bio. It all works exactly in line with what you’re used to on the console; there are no surprises here.
Microsoft went all out on Avatar interaction and customization on the phone. In the Profile tab you can select a button to enter the Avatar Closet. Here you can customize your avatar with clothes, hats, and all kinds of gear. You can use your finger to spin the avatar around to view its new style from various angles. What you do with your avatar on the phone is reflected on the console, and vice versa. At launch time, only free items will be available to download in the Avatar Closet. However if you purchase a new look on the console, that will be reflected on the phone. In addtion to customizing your avatar you can make them utilize Avatar Gadgets. These are simple productivity tools that feature your avatar on-screen. They include a flashlight, ruler, level, and coin toss. Sure this is all a bit gimmicky, but it looks fun!
Now let’s talk about what’s most important here: the games. Microsoft has announced the first wave of Windows Phone 7 games, and they include a list of over 60 titles from Microsoft Game Studios and popular third party developers like Gameloft, THQ, and Namco Bandai. Microsoft promises that new titles will be added to the collection on a weekly basis once the platform is officially up and running. Of the limited number of games previewed, it was Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (from MGS) that really impressed. The tower defense game will use Bing Maps to present a bunch of baddies marching down real streets in your neighborhood. You can use pinch-to-zoom, screen rotation, and finger tracking to guide the game. Gameloft will bring Splinter Cell: Conviction, Let’s Golf 2, Earthworm Jim, Assassin’s Creed, and The Oregon Trail; Glu Mobile is working on Guitar Hero 5; Konami’s got Frogger and Castlevania; and Microsoft Game Studios will lead the way with Halo: Waypoint and The Harvest. The launch lineup is exciting to say the least.
A couple side notes concerning the games. (1) The full multiplayer experience you’ve come to know and love on the console will not be playable on phones at launch. Only turn-based multiplayer games like Uno will be available to play over the Internet with friends. (2) Every game will have a try-before-you-buy demo. If you download a demo and decide you want to purchase a game, you’re only one click away from unlocking the game’s license to play to your hearts content. (3) All WP7 Xbox Live games have a 200 gamerscore. And remember, if you unlock an achievement on the phone this will be reflected on your gamerscore on the phone and the console.
Fellow gamers, Xbox Live on a mobile phone is coming soon. Friends, messaging, achievements, avatars, exciting first and third party games. Microsoft has all the ingredients to make Windows Phone 7 not only a competing but dominant force in mobile gaming. Execution is key here. If Microsoft can really pull off the Xbox Live experience on their new mobile platform with heavy developer support, an evolution of the mobile gaming landscape is on its way. Apple be afraid, very afraid.
Look after the break for the full PR, which includes the list of launch titles, and an intro video.
Forget everything you know about Microsoft’s dated Windows Mobile OS. This week at World Mobile Congress 2010 in Barcelona Microsoft unveiled the latest version of their mobile OS. It has a new name, Windows Phone 7 Series (that’s a mouthful!), and more importantly it has a new look. When I say “new” look I mean it; Windows Phone 7 Series (WP7S) features a brand spankin’ new user interface that entirely scraps Windows Mobile and does not look back. Think of it as iPhone OS or WebOS new. Such a vast overhaul of a staple service is an unexpected but necessary move by Microsoft; it really was the only option Microsoft had to choose in order to stay relevant in today’s highly competitive mobile space.
The software and user interface changes that define WP7S is where I will begin. There are no Start and drop-down menus, check boxes, and cluttering windows that adversely affected Windows Mobile users of the past. WP7S provides a fresh and clean experience, introducing organized and constantly updating “tiles” and “hubs.” Microsoft calls tiles “super icons” and they live on the home screen. The tiles are movable and user-configurable and animate when new updates are present. You can populate the home screen with an infinite number of tiles that can lead to apps, websites, contacts, photo galleries, and hubs.
Microsoft touts a hub as being an “app that makes sense of your apps.” In other words, a hub is a place that can aggregate specific information, providing you designated places for information you seek. When you click on a hub you enter a horizontal-scrolling interface and you can “pivot” left and right to access additional screens within the hub. The following hubs have been revealed by Microsoft: people, pictures, games, music + video, marketplace, and Office.
The people hub brings together contacts from various email accounts and social networks like Gmail, Exchange, Windows Live, and Twitter, aggregating tons of information from your contacts including status updates, images, and more into a single list. The people hub breaks down into the following categories: Recent, All, What’s New. The aggregation not only takes place in the What’s New feed, it also lives in contact cards. So for example, you can click a contact name in the Recent or All sections, view the contact’s basic information such as cell number and email address, andyou can, say, comment on their Facebook status. You also have the option to “pin” a contact to your home screen, turning it into a live tile for easy accessibility.
The pictures hub brings together pictures from your own (local) personal collection, social networks, and other cloud-based collections from sites like Facebook. The pictures hub breaks down into the following categories: Gallery (organized into albums, all, and favorites sections), latest synced or snapped pictures, What’s New. The What’s New feed aggregates the latest pictures taken and posted by your contacts. (See the pattern here?) When viewing your own pictures, you have the option to upload them to Facebook (and other sites); you can also label favorites and create new albums within the pictures hub.
The Office hub is the “productivity” hub. Office for WP7S emphasizes OneNote and SharePoint. The Office hub breaks down into the following categories: OneNote, Documents, SharePoint. OneNote is a place where you can, well, take notes. You can create new “pages” for things like grocery lists, meeting notes, and to do lists. You can create notes by typing, taking a picture, or using your voice. These pages/notes can then be synced back and forth to your PC. The Documents category is the place where all your documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.) synced from your PC are saved. SharePoint allows you to share documents on a company SharePoint server for document collaboration. The Office hub will work hand-in-hand with Office 2010.
The music + video hub brings the Zune HD experience to WP7S devices. In fact, Microsoft is proud to say that “Every WP7S phone will be a Zune.” The music + video hub breaks down into the following categories: Zune (music, video, podcast, radio, marketplace), History, New, Apps. What’s most prominent here is that Microsoft will be partnering with third-party developers to provide different ways to listen to music. Pandora was name dropped, so you can expect to see music streaming services gain access to the music + video hub.
The games hub features Xbox Live! It breaks down into the following categories: Spotlight provides new games information; Xbox Live shows you your live avatar, gamertag, gamerscore, and profile picture; Requests inform you that someone is “nudging” you, letting you know it’s your turn in a game, and lists game invites; Collection is the area where you can build a list of Xbox Live-supported games that support achievements. These games will have interactive components that talk to your Xbox console, the PC, and other WP7S devices. Additional information about what type of games we’re talking about here was not disclosed.
The marketplace hub was not demoed at the launch event but since then unofficial pictures have surfaced that reveal its basic organization. Microsoft promises that more information about apps, app development, and the marketplace will be revealed at this year’s MIX10 event next month.
With hubs out of the way, the remainder of the tiles on the home screen include Phone, SMS, Email, Calendar, Internet Explorer, and Bing Search/Bing Maps. Microsoft is really pushing its Bing search services on WP7S devices. Users will be able to search specific keywords to pull up local news, information, maps, and directions. Easy and straightforward.
Microsoft plans on releasing WP7S during the Holiday 2010 window and they have many hardware and carrier partners lined up. They include Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Toshiba; carrier support comes from AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. Let’s just say there will be a plethora of WP7S devices later this year. (Side note: Unlike stylus-wielding devices of the past, WP7S is focused purely on touch input and requires manufacturers to include at most only three face buttons–Back, Start, and Search. Other hardware-specifics like required internal specs were not mentioned.)
It all comes down to this: Can Microsoft pull themselves out of the wreckage that was Windows Mobile and regain market (and mind) share in a highly competitive environment that Apple and Google have quickly taken over? With Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft clearly defines that they finally understand that the mobile phone is very different from a PC. In fact, during the launch event Microsoft corporate VP of Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore kept reiterating, “The phone is just not a PC.” With this knowledge, they built a brand new, visually beautiful mobile OS from the ground up, leaving out all complexities and incorporating much simplicity. On a PC it feel natural to have various windows open to access Facebook, contacts, and Flickr. Dealing with this mess on a small mobile device does not make sense, so Microsoft came up with an extremely intuitive way to aggregate all this information into live tiles and interactive hubs, making it very easy to see and respond to your friends and family. Many questions remain; for instance, we still don’t know much about the marketplace and app development, and overall developer input. From the looks of it Microsoft will put devs front and center stage, giving them access to create smart apps that will supplement the 7 Series experience. If they learned anything from Apple and the iPhone, app existence and support is crucial for a mobile OS to succeed in today’s cell phone industry. But with a company whose CEO is famed for screaming “Developers, Developers, Developers,” I have no doubt Microsoft will come out victorious as a worthy competitive force in the mobile space.
Check out the gallery below for additional UI shots. Look after the break for a bunch WP7S-related videos; they include a quick features tour, a 20 minute demo, and the streamed launch event. You’ll also find the official press release there, too.