Windows Phone 7 Series and Windows Live Wave 4: What we know and what we don’t know

Windows Phone 7 Series + Windows Live Wave 4 With the announcement of Windows Phone 7 Series at Mobile World Conference at Barcelona yesterday, the blogosphere has been flooded with Windows Phone news, and LiveSide is no exception. If you watched the press conference by Steve Ballmer yesterday (if you’ve missed it, you can watch the on-demand version here), you would’ve noticed that the words “Windows Live” (and even one mention of “Live Services”) kept popping up throughout his speech. While the topic is hot, we would like to take this chance and take a deep look at what’s been revealed about Windows Phone and its relationship with Windows Live, and what questions remain to be answered about this relationship.

What we know:

From the announcement, we can see that Windows Live became an integral part of the Windows Phone experience, integrating tightly into almost every aspect of the phone. Here an overview of this relationship, as well as some speculation about the upcoming Windows Live Wave 4 based on what we saw yesterday:

  • Hotmail – Through the “Outlook” hub, it was quite explicitly stated that besides Microsoft Exchange, most web-based e-mail services, including Hotmail and Gmail, are supported in the Windows Phone. Although we would like to point out to this video on Channel 9, which briefly demonstrated the Outlook hub interface, and how Windows Phone supports flagged messages. Thus if Hotmail is supported by Windows Phone, by deduction, it pretty much confirms that Hotmail Wave 4 would support flagged messages too.
  • Calendar – We know that the “Calendar” hub would support multiple calendars and would support synchronisation with Microsoft Exchange as well as Outlook. In the launch video, we can also see that the Windows Phone would support synchronisation with Windows Live Calendar. Now the question remains as to whether the web-based mobile Calendar is coming or not in Wave 4.
  • People – The “People” hub is perhaps the most interesting, as it would grab everyone on your Windows Live contact list (and Facebook too) and integrate it as part of your phonebook. What we’re not sure is how Windows Phone would handle integrating Facebook’s contacts with Windows Live’s contacts, and recognise them as the same person?
  • “What’s New” Feed, Profile, Web Activities – As above, the “People” hub will show you everything you’ll need to know about your contacts through Windows Live, by integrating the “What’s New” feed. It was also mentioned that all other social network activities (like Twitter) can also be shown through the Web Activities on Windows Live. At the same time, what you post as your status message on your Windows Live Profile will also show up on your friends’ Windows Phone. What’s new and interesting for us is that we’ve spotted that you can now “comment” on other person’s Windows Live status updates, as shown in the screenshots below (see the number “4” next to someone’s Windows Live status update):
     Windows Live Status Comments Windows Live Status Comments
    Is this saying something new about Windows Live Wave 4?
  • Photos – Through the “Pictures” hub, Windows Live Photos integrates very tightly with Windows Phone, allowing users to access their own photos stored on Windows Live SkyDrive directly from their phone, as well as uploading their photos taken on their Windows Phone directly onto SkyDrive (and Facebook). It also takes advantage of the What’s New feed and lets you view all your contact’s online activities relating to photos. This makes us wonder, what about the Videos we take on our Windows Phone?
  • Docs & Office Web Apps – Quite obviously, this will be done through the “Office” hub on the Windows Phone. We know that it will support SharePoint, but in the press conference we did hear that for those not part of an office environment, you can also access your documents on “SharePoint through Windows Live” – which we’re guessing actually means Office Web Apps or Windows Live Docs.

What we don’t know:

  • Messenger – Perhaps the most important question is that why Windows Live Messenger is not integrated in the People hub? Will there be a separate Messenger app available through the Windows Phone marketplace? If so, how will it integrate with the People hub and your contact list?
  • Devices, Sync & SkyDrive – What seems missing in the initial Windows Phone announcement is the “Live Mesh”-equivalent side of Windows Live – namely Windows Live Devices, Sync and SkyDrive. Although you can access and upload photos and documents directly to and from your Windows Phone onto SkyDrive (through Photos and Docs), it wasn’t announced whether you can access other types of files stored on your SkyDrive, or better yet, synchronisation of files onto SkyDrive (as envisioned back in the Live Mesh days).
  • MyPhone – Our friend Long Zheng spotted on Google ads a few days ago for Windows Mobile 7 which linked to Microsoft’s MyPhone service. A job posting also hinted at future features of the MyPhone service. Questions remain as to whether MyPhone would still work with Windows Phone 7 Series, and if so, if there are any new features. Do remember that one of the current features of MyPhone is to access your contacts
    and appointments stored on your Windows Mobile online via the web browser. But if Windows Phone 7 Series is already pulling the contact list and calendars from the web (for example, your Windows Live contact list and Windows Live Calendar), what would be the use of this feature? Will MyPhone be eventually integrated into Windows Live?
  • Live Services – We’re expecting to hear more about the development of applications for Windows Phone in MIX10 next month. With the tight integration of Windows Live with Windows Phone, are we expected to hear something about Live Services for Windows Live Wave 4 too?

While the integration between Windows Live and Windows Phone is getting closer, several pieces of the puzzle is still missing with the V1 release of the Windows Phone 7 Series, especially the aspects relating to synchronisation with Windows Live SkyDrive (through Devices & Sync) – which seems to be a big hit in the upcoming Windows Live Wave 4. Let’s hope that Microsoft is working hard on this, and that sometime in the future we’d really see the “three screens” united through Windows Live. I guess we’d have to wait until MIX10 next month to hear more about Windows Phone and Windows Live/Live Services.