Windows Phone 7 Series: Bold move for Microsoft

WP7logo Today at MWC in Barcelona, Microsoft took the wraps off Windows Phone 7 Series, its new look software platform for Windows Phones, to be delivered by “Holiday Season 2010”.  First, a note that Microsoft pulled off a surprisingly clean announcement, with almost no leaks beforehand.  Of course at this point Windows Phone 7 Series is demo-ware, so there isn’t much to leak, but still a good job by Microsoft for putting on an impressive show.

Windows Phone 7 Series has almost totally scrapped anything resembling Windows Mobile phones of the past, and is working closely with chip manufacturer Qualcomm and hardware vendors to a level not seen before with Microsoft products to deliver a close knit hardware/software phone experience.  AT&T and Orange are to be featured partners, with phones coming from 7 announced partners (no details have been announced about who will ship what, or when, other than the Holiday Season announcement).

The new phones are, if not in name, still very much Zune Phones.  The interface is largely derived from the Zune HD experience, all very clean and bold looking.  These phones are as much media devices as phones, with music/video and games being essential parts of the experience.  They are also very much promotional devices for Microsoft services such as Windows Live, Xbox Live, and Zune.  They don’t appear to lock out other services: Facebook integration was prominently mentioned in the press conference, but Microsoft services are front and center.

No mention was made of the “Pink” phones, and it’s unclear where they will fit in to the picture. 

Bing, of course, is also a core component of Windows Phone 7 Series: there’s even a hardware button for Search (all WP7 devices will have 3 hardware buttons: Start/Search/Back).  Search will be contextual, depending on where you are in the user interface, and will feature voice search, according to at least one report.  The UI will feature a number of search enhancements: addresses, etc. will be automatically linked to Bing Maps, for example.

Steve Ballmer addressed one concern about the new phones, and confirmed that there will be no Flash support “out of the box” in V1.  He said that Microsoft had no objection to Flash, and there seems to be much unsaid about a Microsoft/Adobe collaboration with Windows Phones, we don’t think we’re hearing the full story, yet.

Not much was said about the browser, except that it was based on a “full desktop browser”, and features “sub-pixel” enhancements to text that are better than Clear-Type.  Speculation that the browser is based on IE9 weren’t confirmed, at least not in the press conference.

The Silverlight story wasn’t fully revealed, either.  Windows Phone 7 Series features some slick animations, and there have been rumors that it’s built on Silverlight technologies, but we’ll have to wait until Mix to hear more.

Clearly, this is a bold move for Microsoft, as Windows Phones are as much about selling the Microsoft experience as they are about selling phones.  Zune, Bing, Xbox Live, Silverlight, IE, and Microsoft’s developer platforms are all heavily featured, and integral parts of the new phones.  To buy a Windows Phone, you’re buying into that Microsoft experience, with Windows Phones being as much a marketing platform as a developer platform, and it will be very interesting how this all plays out in the marketplace.

Some Windows Phone 7 Series links of interest:

Windows Phone YouTube channel

Windows Phone 7 Series developer support offered to Mix attendees

Charlie Kindel’s Windows Phone Development blog