Microsoft announced the next version of its mobile operating system in Barcelona this week, named Windows Phone 7 Series. Although not the most pleasant sounding name, it is definitely the most pleasant looking Windows Mobile ever.
When Microsoft stopped calling it Windows Mobile and started calling it Windows Phone when 6.5 hit, we knew what was in store - a complete overhaul of the operating system - and that is exactly what we got. It's a smartphone, a Zune and an Xbox Portable (our name) all in one device.
The first thing to note is that the familiar Windows feel is gone, replaced instead with a more ZuneHD feel; multiple tiles on the Start screen, which are completely customizable. Similar to an Android home screen, but with a more widget feel. You can have Facebook status updates, Xbox Live, Internet Explorer, Zune, Pictures, etc.
The calendar app is pretty impressive, which is saying a lot considering it is a calendar app. It seems to bring in aspects of the WebOS calendar, with the ability to have more than one source in a single view, but there is currently no information about what sources will be available (WebOS allows for Exchange, Palm Profile, Google, Yahoo and Facebook). All of this while having a completely unique look and feel.
Bing is integrated (big surprise), with the biggest and most important integration being Bing Maps. The one part of Bing that seems to be right on the mark, mobile Bing Maps seems to have carried over everything we love from the full version to the handset. You can do searches based on location in both regular search and Maps.
The browser was to be expected based on the iPhone and WebOS models. The thing we got excited about was the zooming on text. You can expand a single word to full screen without any quality loss. Mobile Outlook is definitely what you would expect from Outlook, but in a more Zune-style interface. Contacts are sorted through the People section and have almost nothing of note except it is like looking at albums on a Zune.
By now you are probably detecting a theme. Everything is very Zune, which is definitely not a bad thing. Microsoft really got it right win the Zune interface, and even better on the ZuneHD, which is definitely the inspiration for this new OS.
The last 2 integrations to talk about are the Zune and Xbox Live. There isn't much to say about the Zune except it is 100% a Zune in every way. Anything you would expect to see on the ZuneHD you will see here. Xbox Live integration is the real surprise. We didn't get to see any games themselves in Barcelona, but expect to see some videos leaked soon. The integration with Live, however, is really impressive even without games. The avatars, the requests, the messages all make it feel like an Xbox in your hand. This is definitely Microsoft's long-awaited entry into the portable gaming market.
Obviously there is a lot more to the OS than what I covered here, and I encourage everyone to view the video in the link at the bottom. It was a long press conference to sit through, but it felt short with all of the excitement involved.