With the latest iteration of its mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7 Series, Microsoft aims to narrow the gap between its OS, the iPhone OS and Android.
Built to focus on consumers, Windows Phone 7 Series — or WinPho7 — was designed from the ground up. “We made a very big decision to re-examine everything because the industries surrounding mobile are at an inflection point,” said Andy Lees, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, about the operating system.
A core concept for the design was building a broad platform of software that works across whatever device each user is on at any time.
WinPho7 is tightly integrated with other Microsoft apps, ranging from Xbox Live games to Zune music and video to Bing search to the software giant’s Office productivity software.
Many Apps Make WinPho7 Work
That tight integration may well boost WinPho7 ahead of its predecessors in the Windows Mobile 6 series.
“The one thing I thought was really cool about the product was that Microsoft had finally nailed the fact that it’s got all these properties — SharePoint, an email client, document integration — and managed to integrate them all together,” Maribel Lopez, principal analyst and founder of Lopez Research, told TechNewsWorld.
“Microsoft’s existing operating system wasn’t going to cut it any more; it needed a total refresh,” she said.
Taking On the iPhone, Android?
WinPho7 has been a long time coming, and its launch has been repeatedly delayed over the years. That delay, Lees hinted, was due to the mobile operating system’s overhaul. “The reason we took such care with this release is we’re setting up for the long term,” he said.
Like the iPhone operating system and Android, WinPho7 has strong links to social networks and a multitouch screen. It also offers users live updates on their friends’ status.
“Microsoft took a look at both Android and the iPhone OS, figured out what the next generation might be and built it,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “It’s both simple and elegant; it’s kind of hard to believe it came from Microsoft.”
However, the mobile world is constantly changing, and WinPho7 might be dated by the time devices running the OS hit the shelves in time for holiday sales this year, Lopez Research’s Lopez warned.
“They’re targeting the holiday season, which means that other people still have another six months to announce their updates,” she pointed out. “For example, we’ll probably see an update for the iPhone around June. So, Microsoft’s operating system refresh looks caught up today, but we don’t know where it’ll be in six months.”
Random Thoughts About WinPho7
Microsoft may well need those six months to shore up the weaknesses in WinPho7. “The solution isn’t complete yet, and there are still a number of things that needs to be done before it hits the shelves,” Enderle said.
For one thing, Microsoft’s application store is light on apps, although it’s well executed, Enderle pointed out. For another, this is going to be the first run of a brand-new platform, so there probably will be some teething problems, he said.
However, the platform may be less buggy than feared. “Microsoft does better beta tests than Apple or Google, so you would expect its new platform to have fewer problems than the initial iPhone or Android versions have historically had,” Enderle said.
More enterprise apps should be announced during and after the Microsoft MIX10 conference, which will be held Mar. 15 to 17 in Las Vegas, Enderle said. MIX10 attendees will be introduced to the platform, shown how to work with the WinPho7 development tools, and be given a tour of the Windows Marketplace. MIX10 attendees will also get free developer support for the WinPho7 development tools.
Whether or not WinPho7 will be on par with Android and the iPhone when it’s launched later this year is still an open issue. Still, if the six-month hiatus gives the competition time to adjust, it also does the same for Redmond.