First, a disclaimer – I have been and continue to be a Windows Mobile user. I’ve been using Windows Mobile since I got my HTC Mogul back in 2007. Ever since, I have been actively participating in the various forums and communities that create custom ROMs to better what many of us agree to be a very crappy standard OS. As a result, many guys cook their own ROMs and make these phones useful and fun to use. Like many windows mobile users, I have been looking forward to Windows Mobile 7. Now, with all of these recent developments… my faith in Microsoft and Windows Mobile 7 is needless to say, more than tarnished.
Recently, one of the biggest sites in the modding commmunity, PPCGeeks learned quite a few details about Windows Mobile 7 prior to the Mobile World Congress which is set to occur in Barcelona, Spain on Feb 15th. This is where Microsoft is rumored to be announcing Windows Mobile 7 [or Windows Phone 7 by some accounts]. PPCGeeks is one of the most trusted sources in the Windows Mobile community and as such, we believe the information they have regarding this announcement should be considered as fairly accurate.
The user interface that Windows Phone 7 [WinMo7] will be based upon is codenamed "Metro" and it will be very similar to the Zune HD UI with a complete revamp of the start screen that is currently visible in Windows Mobile 6.5. It is also reported that Windows Phone 7 will not have flash support from the get go, but may eventually gain these features later on. This is worrying considering the fact that most of Microsoft’s promises seem to take a lot longer than originally anticipated. This is a feature that we wouldn’t necessarily wait for. If it doesn’t have it from the get go, we’re not necessarily confident that users will see it in Windows Phone 7, maybe 7.5 perhaps.
In addition to the revamped UI, Windows Phone 7 will ONLY support application installation through service based delivery. This means that the marketplace that was introduced to users back in October will now serve as a launchpad for ALL windows mobile applications. This means that applications installation through storage cards will no longer be possible. This takes a direct hit to the freedom that Windows Mobile users have been experiencing for years. This move means that people will not be able to install apps that they’ve had on their computer or on their memory card, but will have to go through Microsoft’s app store which will inevitably limit the ability of users to use whatever content they like. This will also reduce the amount of apps available to users and their accessibility. Of course, this is if users don’t hack their phones and unlock this ability or remove marketplace dependance. This move worries us because it takes Windows Phone 7 one step closer to becoming just as locked down as the Apple iPhone, which was one of the biggest reasons that many people went for a WinMo phone to begin with.
The next painful development for the Windows Phone 7 platform is the fact that there will be no multi-task support. This means that applications will "pause" in the background, but will only support notifications and not full use. This is kind of ridiculous considering the fact that almost all of the major competitors, Research In Motion, Palm, Motorola and Nokia all have devices that are capable of truely multitasking. The question of multi-task inside Apple’s iPhone OS 4.0 or 4.1 remains, but a vast majority of smartphones have this capability.
One of the welcome developments will be the "try before you buy" adoption in the marketplace which I found to be one of the best features that the Android Marketplace had to offer. This will definitely be a welcome change for Windows Mobile [Phone] users, which may lighten the sting of the fact that they can’t install apps from their memory cards.
Windows Phone 7 will not have NETCF backwards compatibility. This means that the original rumor of no backwards compatibility for applications holds to be true. That being said, there are high hopes of porting the NetCF to the newer platform easily. As part of the full Zune integration, Windows Mobile Device Center will no longer be used. This will be replaced by the Zune software which will take over the task of syncing the device with the PC.
While we try our best to stay on the bright side of things, the painful blows continue to come. It is reported that OEM Interfaces will not be allowed to run in Windows Phone 7. This means the end of the use of popular interfaces like HTC’s Sense UI, SPB’s Mobile Shell, and many others. This was also the reason for nVidia’s abandonment of its 3D UI for Tegra SOCs. And while they take popular features like OEM interfaces, they also add new ones like Full Xbox gaming integration which includes gamer tag, achievements, friends and avatars. Here we come to perhaps one of key reasons why many phone vendors such as HTC are now turning towards Google and Android/Chrome – even though these operating systems come with a much higher level of intrusion into your private data. Then again, we don’t really see much of a benefit of having XBOX gaming integration on a phone considering the fact that it’s just accessing personal information. What we would like to see would be a port of Xbox Live games into the Windows Phone 7 platform allowing for friends to play their games away from home and compete with other friends in a social atmosphere, further extending the windows live social experience. This would partly add into the fact that that they claim to have full support for social networking, even though there are already a plethora of apps for sites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and the like.
MightyMike from PPCGeeks also reported that Microsoft is confident that devices will be ready by September 2010, but our sources pointed towards a delay of those devices into 2011.