It’s no exaggeration to say Windows Phone 7 series changes the whole way we see mobile phones. There was an inkling prior to Mobile World Congress that it would be something special. But the manner in which Microsoft has torn up both its ageing mobile OS and caused panic at both Google and Apple is nothing short of extraordinary.
The bold move came on Monday when Steve Ballmer and his cohorts took to the stage in Barcelona and showed off a complete overhaul of Microsoft’s mobile operating system. This wasn’t the naff, poorly considered ‘honeycomb’ design of Windows Mobile 6.5, covering up the same old flaws. This was a fresh, social media focused system, built with strict parameters to ensure manufacturers don’t tweak it to their hearts content.
Every Windows Phone 7 series cell has to have a Bing key for getting straight into Microsoft’s search engine. And a new Live Tiles front page replaces the tired Start button format ported straight from desktop Windows. That means pulling in social networks and live web feeds just like HTC Sense and Vodafone 360.
And that’s bound to give Android plenty to think about. Google’s operating system is centred on social networks, but only when the likes of HTC, Sony Ericsson and Motorola drape over their dedicated skins, unlike Windows Phone 7 series which works with Facebook and Twitter straight out of the box.
But more worryingly for Google, it gives handset makers a better choice when it comes to which OS to use on their latest phones.
Windows Mobile 6.5 just couldn’t live up to Android. HTC has favoured both, but has been focusing largely on Google’s OS, especially with the new HTC Legend and HTC Desire. However, Peter Chou, HTC’s CEO said at MWC that, “Windows Phone 7 Series is a significant milestone for Microsoft, the industry and ultimately people looking to do more on their phones. HTC is working closely with Microsoft to bring the unique HTC experience that customers love.”
At the time of writing though, HTC had not responded to our requests on what this means for Android on their handsets. Being a slave to two such demanding mistresses will be tough and Google will clearly be panicked by Microsoft’s big move. That said, Microsoft isn’t keen on having its new OS skinned, meaning HTC Sense is off the menu when it comes to Windows Phone 7 series. Welcome news for Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, who has been talking up his company’s “Mobile First” approach all week.
But of course, the gadget that Windows Phone 7 series really has in its sights is the iPhone. We asked Apple for its thoughts on Microsoft’s new effort, with a spokesperson telling us, “We don’t comment on the activities of other businesses.” That’s unsurprising, but be under no illusion that this will have Apple spooked.
The iPhone is all of a sudden starting to show its age and it’s the old rival, Microsoft, that’s doing the damage. Apple will point to the fact that no Windows Phone 7 series phones will be available until the end of 2010, but it can’t ignore the fact that integrating social networks, Zune PMP software and the excellent Xbox LIVE gaming platform offers the stiffest competition it has faced yet. The next iPhone will have to match these achievements and not fall back on the old Apple ways of slating competitors while refusing to be open to new ideas.
Time will tell if Windows Phone 7 series can take on the big boys and win. Microsoft needs to be quick out of the blocks, but it’s evident that Apple and Google are already feeling the heat of this next-generation OS.