Microsoft officially unveiled its new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, at a press event held this morning in New York City. CEO Steve Ballmer described the new line of Windows Phones as "different" and more modern, in both design and principles. With Windows Phone 7, the focus is on how "real people want to use their phones," he said.
Besides being different, a key point Microsoft needs to drive home if wanting to compete in a crowded mobile landscape, there was also a big focus on personalization. "We also wanted these to be wonderfully mine, or yours, or yours, or the next person. Here's my phone, the way I've made it wonderfully mine," explained Ballmer. "My photos, my email, my start screen, my activities, my world... and of course, my avatar."
Microsoft Corporate VP Joe Belifore described the phone's final software as an operating system that helps you get things done. "We wanted to figure out how to build a phone that simplifies the basics," he said.
One of the ways WP7 achieves this, explained Belifore, is through the use of something called Windows Phone Hubs. These live-updating tiles display on the Windows Phone 7 homescreen, alerting users to new text messages, missed calls, voicemails and more. But hubs can deliver non-phone related info too, like live Twitter and Facebook updates, Internet news and new photos uploaded by friends. One hub even connects the phone to Xbox LIVE, Microsoft's online service for its Xbox 360 gaming console.
The tiles can be moved around and deleted, so as to allow complete customization of the homescreen.
Another major feature with the new mobile operating system is how the camera works. Instead of having to launch an app, WP7 users will just press a hardware-based camera button to snap a photo. Then from within the camera's onscreen interface, you can access the photo gallery and immediately upload those photos to the cloud.
Microsoft's Office software is deeply integrated into the new device. In the phone's mobile version of Outlook, viewing Office documents is supported right from within an email, as is standard on many of today's smartphones. But editing Office files is also supported, explained Belifore, which is more of a unique feature.
Outlook calendaring is available, including free/busy information and conflict detection, the ability to accept meeting requests on the device, different view options (e.g. "today's agenda") and a one-touch "I'll be late" button which signals to meeting attendees that you're behind schedule.
He also demonstrated how auto-correction works - instead of automatically changing a misspelled word, the OS offers suggestions for word correction to choose from.
Microsoft's Bing search engine, whose team recently gobbled up the group from Microsoft's Live Labs, creators of SeaDragon, Photosynth and data visualization technology Pivot, is also baked into WP7.
Addresses in emails or calendar invites take you to Bing Maps, which also includes the traditional mapping application features like search, walking and driving directions and more. It also offers street-level images, similar to Google's Street View, and real-time traffic updates.
The integrated Bing service itself provides Web search, voice search (via Microsoft's TellMe), instant answers (short answer search results for things like airline flight info, sports scores, etc.) and local search, the latter demonstrated by way of a search for a local restaurant and its related reviews and star ratings. From the reviews, another tap will dial the restaurant's phone number.
There are six Windows Phone Hubs that ship with the device, which you can think of as Microsoft's take on homescreen widgets: the People Hub, Pictures Hub, Music + Video Hub, Games Hub, Office Hub and the Marketplace.
The People Hub connects to social networking services like Facebook and Twitter, pulling in status updates from friends and providing contact info and phone numbers. Users can respond to updates, like sending a text message or commenting on a status update from here instead of launching an app.
The Pictures Hub displays photos from your friends, including those on Facebook. Here, users can share their own photos with friends or view and comment on friends' photos.
The Music + Video Hub connects with Microsoft's Zune service offering access to music, video, podcasts and FM Radio. The Hub supports both streaming and downloads.
In the Games Hub, users can customize their Xbox LIVE avatar, send and receive gaming invites to friends and, of course, play games on the phone. Games like The Sims 3 and Ilo and Milo were demonstrated. Other launch titles include Bejeweled, Uno, Game Chest (a collection of card and board games), CarenyVale: Showtime, Halo:Waypoint, Crackdown 2: Sunburst, Rocket Riot, and more.
Windows Phone 7 will connect to Xbox LIVE, allowing users to earn achievements on the phone and track their gamerscore.
The Office Hub offers mobile versions of Office applications including Microsoft Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile and OneNote Mobile. SharePoint Workspace Mobile 2010 allows business users to access their company's SharePoint workspaces from the device.
The Marketplace has its own Hub, where users can search and download new apps.
Third-party developers can also build their own Hubs using Microsoft's provided development tools.
During the today's demo, Belifore showed off some big-name apps including those from eBay, IMDB and AT&T's Uverse Mobile, a media app. More apps are showcased here including games, an official Twitter app and others. We're also aware of a Netflix app, Slacker radio app, a pre-loaded T-Mobile TV app on select devices and Fandango app. No word yet on the exact number of apps available at launch.
Copy & Paste
When Microsoft announced that copy & paste was not going to be initially available on the new phones, there was a big outcry. Today, Microsoft said that the feature would be available "in early 2011" via a software update.
Windows Phone 7, like Android, will ship on a variety of hardware devices from multiple manufacturers. There will be nine phones arriving by WP7's November U.S. launch date (WP 7 will debut in some European markets on Oct. 21, however). Devices from HTC, LG, Samsung and Dell will be available. The form factors will vary, with some phones offering keyboards, phones with very large screens and even a ruggedized device for heavy-duty users like the one from Dell.
Windows Phone 7 will arrive on 60 mobile operators worldwide in 30 countries including AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., Orange, SingTel, Telstra, Telus, Telefonica, Vodafone and more.
President and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega also spoke on stage at this morning's event. He said that the network, known best as the sole iPhone carrier in the U.S. was committed to offering customers a wide range of devices. Regarding WP7, he said AT&T "knew this was going to be a winner."
According to de la Vega, AT&T will launch three WP7 devices, the LG Quantum, featuring a full QWERTY keyboard for $199.99, the HTC Surround with 16 GB of onboard storage, 5 megapixel camera and two Dolby Surround Sound speakers, also $199.99 and finally, the Samsung Focus, with a super AMOLED screen, Snapdragon CPU and 8 GB of onboard storage, again for $199.99.
The Samsung will be available on November 8th, the others a "few weeks" later, but no specific launch date was given.
AT&T also announced Uverse Mobile for Windows Phone 7 customers, which will be available for a monthly fee.