Microsoft today announced their long anticipated -- possibly long delayed or oft re-started -- Windows Phone Series 7 and showed off a brand new user "experience" including deep social network integration and full on Zune services. (Every Windows Phone is a Zune, but they're not Zune phones -- clear?).
So, after my recent Round Robin Windows Phone review concerns, how did they do? My quick take, after the break!
some 3 years post original iPhone 2G, they showed off a new Start screen that's a series of big square or rectangular tiles. This is the least impressive part to me, however, as I'm not sold on the glance-ability or use of space. Even the animated flips and slides, as slick and sexy as they were, didn't really amaze me as much as something else Microsoft showed off -- a deliberate, decided attempt to reduce the amount of taps it takes users to accomplish tasks, and to make workflows (and fun-flows!) as streamlined as possible.
We've had great looking on Windows Phone before, thanks to HTC, Sony, and others. Now Microsoft is pulling a Palm and aiming for great working. That's key, and huge kudos to them for it.
And while I'm not sold on the static screens of the UI (Georgia remarked that big blue screens/squares is something Microsoft has trained us not to enjoy), the typography was phenomenal, with Microsoft raising the bar on their already fantastic ClearType. (Apple and iPad need to pay attention to that).
There was an Xbox Live! tile, so we'll keep our fingers crossed there, but it was unclear how apps would deploy at scale. While 180 icons currently fit on an iPhone screen, many users don't use anywhere near that many -- still, apps are where it's at now and it'll have to handle whatever users do require. Hubs, as shown for pictures and contacts, might be part of that answer.
Microsoft -- again like Palm -- has re-invented themselves for the modern mobile era. They even said the phone isn't a PC, something everyone else got years ago but when turning a ship as big as Microsoft is still worthy of a cheer.
Furthermore, our old friend AT&T showed up to be their premiere partner for launch. Maybe that's why we haven't seen much Android from them, and why we expect iPhone-on-Verizon rumors to bubble up again as if on cue. But at least it shows some traction.
Some problem areas might be the reported lack of Flash as a differentiator (it's coming later), no or limited multitasking (not sure about that yet, could just be a rumor), and no or limited backwards compatibility with previous Windows Phone/Windows Mobile apps (again, nothing solid on that yet).
While many clamor for an iPhone 4.0 UI overhaul as well, Apple keeps stating they've just trained 75 million people to use their UI, so while a Lock Screen/Home Screen reboot could happen, they likely don't want to lose or confuse existing users. And could you imagine if iTunes App Store apps didn't work on iPhone 4.0? (They work on the iPad, after all). That's a problem Microsoft faces on the Windows desktop side, but was obviously willing to risk on the mobile platform -- and who can blame them at this point? (Due especially to fragmented UI in Windows Mobile 6.x -- HTC Sense, Sony Xperia, Microsoft Tatanium, etc. probably helps them out here.)
All that aside, however, Microsoft worked wonders last year with the Zune HD and ultimately the mainstream market didn't care. That has to be the Windows Phone teams greatest concern right now. Is there still any mindshare left for them?
So is Windows Phone Series 7 competition for the iPhone? Hopefully enough for Apple to really give us that A+ 4th generation iPhone Steve Jobs referenced following the iPad announcement, but likely not enough to dent mainstream consumer market share. At least not yet. If Microsoft was really serious about it selling, they'd have quit the typically ridiculous "Windows Phone 7 Series" branding and released it as the Xphone, along with a Call of Duty Special Edition.