Microsoft this morning shared additional details of its upcoming new mobile platform, Windows Phone 7, focusing on service and entertainment connectivity. As part of the keynote address during the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C. Andy Lees, senior VP of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, highlighted the wide range of integration that Microsoft’s new phones will provide. Handsets running Windows Phone 7 will appear this holiday season with support for five languages and the Windows Phone Marketplace will launch in 17 countries, according to Microsoft.
Although Microsoft has a lengthy history in the smartphone space, Windows Phone 7 (WP7) is a clean break from Microsoft’s current operating system, Windows Mobile 6. But prior information on the new platform shows that WP7 isn’t radically different from the approach that Apple pioneered. The difference may be in the near-total integration Microsoft says that WP7 will bring with Microsoft’s various cloud, social and entertainment services.
New to such integration is a Windows Phone Live website that sounds similar to the now-defunct-but-excellent Microsoft Kin
Connect Studio concept — an online diary of photos taken with a WP7 handset, a synchronized list of phone contacts, calendar events and more. The new site will integrate with 25 GB of storage space on Microsoft’s Sky Drive platform, a cloud-based storage service. Windows Phone Live will also offer a Find My Phone service, much like Apple’s MobileMe feature and a similar solution announced by Research In Motion for BlackBerry devices just yesterday.
The new WP7 handsets will also connect over Wi-Fi with Microsoft’s Zune service, providing access to millions of music tracks and videos. Microsoft indicates that “high resolution photos and other large file content” will be transferable over Wi-Fi. Handsets will link to Microsoft’s Xbox Live service for gamer information, and Windows Live Services are supported natively as well. And in support of Microsoft’s productivity cash cow, the Office hub of WP7 phones will include forms of OneNote, Word, PowerPoint and SharePoint.
Based on Microsoft’s presentation and blog post today, I can’t find any major missing Microsoft services integral to the company’s new handsets — and the richer experience they should bring. Windows Mobile 6 supported many of these services, but such features were typically add-ons and therefore not available across all handsets. And therein lies the difference.
Aside from a full rewrite of the platform — built on Windows CE 6 — and introduction of the “Metro” user interface, WP7 is Microsoft’s first real attempt at using the smartphone as a vehicle to broaden its customer base across all of the company’s services. Put another way — after a few years of watching the success of others, Microsoft is ready to leverage the ecosystem behind the phone. This holiday season will begin to prove if consumers and enterprise users want Microsoft’s full ecosystem in the palm of their hands.
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