Windows Phone 7 revealed...and it is good

Faith Merino · October 11, 2010 · Short URL:

Microsoft unveiled WP7 at a press event, announcing partners, features, and official launch dates

Microsoft unveiled the new Windows Phone 7 Monday morning at a press event in New York City, where it announced its hardware developers, mobile carrier, and launch dates.  As previously rumored, the official launch dates have been confirmed for October 21 in Europe and November 8 for the United States.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage first to drive home two points: 1) Ballmer has one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen, and 2) the primary goal of Windows Phone 7, which is to make a mobile experience that is “always delightful, wonderfully personal, and will help you get in, out, and back to life.”  For weeks now, Microsoft has been advertising the new Windows Phone 7 platform as one that will make the mobile experience so quick and convenient that it will be a supporting role, rather than taking center stage, in the user’s daily life.

To this end, Microsoft has focused heavily on “instant” features, such as the “People Hub,” which corporate VP Joe Belfiore described as “instant social.”  The feature aggregates users’ friend information from social networking sites like Facebook onto a general news feed on the device’s main page so that users can scan through with one click to see what all of his or her friends are up to.

Another instant feature that isn’t all that new but does perform a lot better than most is the text autocorrect, which corrects spelling errors in emails and text messages while also making it easy to go back and “uncorrect.”  This, I think, is my favorite feature.  I really hate when I try to text a joke to a friend and my phone’s autocorrect feature changes one of the words to something else, and before I realize that it made the correction, I’ve already hit send, and then I have to do that follow-up text to correct the correction.  WP7’s autocorrect feature provides a list of words, including the misspelled word, so that if that was what you meant, you can easily touch it to change it back.

The search capabilities also appear to be very quick and convenient.  Powered by Bing, the operating system utilizes an instant one-touch search feature.  Belfiore demonstrated by looking up Thai restaurants in Manhattan.  Using the phone’s GPS, Bing makes recommendations as you type, revealing the nearest restaurants and their ratings.  Touching the restaurant’s name brings up hours of operation, menus, and locations.  Touching the share link gives users the option of sending the link to other friends via text or email.  And if the user simply wants general Web results (rather than a list of nearby restaurants), he or she can “pivot” (sweep your finger over the screen to switch pages) to a list of Web results.

Music and gaming are also emphasized on the operating system, which will feature music through Zune and gaming that is compatible with X-Box live.  Microsoft announced that at launch, EA (Electronic Arts) will be one of their gaming partners, providing the WP7 platform with games like Mobile Sims.

Another very cool feature that is exclusive to WP7 is the fact that it will run Microsoft Office on its platform, allowing users to access shared documents and other Office features.

Ballmer revealed a display of nine phones that will run the Windows Phone 7 OS.  Hardware partners include Qualcomm, Dell, LG, Samsung, and HTC.  Additionally, Microsoft announced that WP7 will run on AT&T’s mobile network, which…doesn’t really sound like a great idea…considering that Apple’s exclusive mobile partnership with AT&T is the iPhone’s only real Achilles Heel in the mobile market.  Or maybe moving into the iPhone’s singular niche is Microsoft’s way of challenging Apple to a duel. 

The numbers will reveal whether Microsoft’s decision to run the WP7 platform exclusively through AT&T was a wise choice or not.  In August, Microsoft claimed 10.8% of the mobile platform market, down 2.4 percentage points from May, while Apple took 24.2% of the market, according to comScore’s data.  So...we’ll see how Microsoft fares in the coming months.

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