Steve Ballmer is typically upbeat about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s new hope in mobile devices. But can it really succeed?
Windows Phone 7, the new Microsoft mobile operating system launched by CEO Steve Ballmer at MWC in Barcelona, looks like a bid to shift the emphasis away from apps and towards online content. But will that be enough to change Microsoft’s fortunes?
By branding the new operating system “Windows Phone 7 Series” in place of the traditional “Windows Mobile,” Microsoft seems to be emphasising that this offering is a clean break from previous versions.
“We needed and wanted to do some things that were out of the box,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience after a demonstration of the device. “You’ll see us continue to invest in our Windows Mobile 6.5 offering, but we started a whole new generation here with Windows Phone 7 Series.”
Ballmer also indicated that the devices would make their debut in time for the holiday season at the end of the year.
Hubs on the Windows phone
Microsoft’s attempt to differentiate itself in the crowded and competitive smartphone arena is an operating system that groups a wide number of services into what the company calls “hubs.” Both Xbox Live and Zune software will be integrated into the devices.
Those hubs include “People,” “Pictures,” “Office,” “Music & Video,” and “Games.” As an example, the “People” hub merges together data from Outlook, Windows Live, and other social-networking services to provide real-time data about the phone user’s friends and colleagues; the “Office” hub syncs applications such as OneNote with the user’s PC, and allows access to a SharePoint server for collaboration with colleagues.
During the press conference, Microsoft officials seemed to de-emphasise the role of mobile applications created by third-party developers. These are front-and-centre for smartphone competitors such as Apple’s iPhone and Google Android devices, in favour of focusing on the overall operating system and its syncing with both the Web and the user’s PC.
However, Microsoft executives indicated to eWEEK in a separate conversation today that there would be a mobile applications marketplace for Windows Phone 7 Series devices, reminiscent of the – so far rather underpopulated – Mobile Marketplace that already exists for Windows Mobile 6.5.
Hardware partners on the initiative include Qualcomm for the optimisation of hardware and software, as well as a variety of OEMs — including Hewlett-Packard, HTC, Sony Ericsson and Samsung — for crafting a core hardware specification across all new Windows phones. A screen flashed during the presentation indicates that T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon will also be partners at launch.