Microsoft is banking on their lucky number 7 today. In a dual launch event in both London and New York, Microsoft officially kicked off their newest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7. Microsoft CEO Ballmer took the stage to (admittedly lackluster) applause and voiced his excitement over the differences that WP7 brings to the industry. He brought up two main points that the OS was going to focus on: wonderfully delightful, and wonderfully mine. He emphasized the diversity and personalization that the device offering features. See our overview of the various launch devices here. He seemed to contrast Android’s problems with software segmentation by pointing out while there are different hardware choices to suit many tastes, the software experience would be consistent throughout.
Ralph De La Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, took the stage and announced the details of the Microsoft/AT&T partnership. He announced three new phones from Samsung and HTC and that they would become the “cornerstones of AT&T’s smartphone lineup.” The phones will all be available in November.
The much anticipated AT&T U-Verse Mobile was announced. AT&T is bringing their successful cable offering to the mobile world by offering the entertainment capabilities of your U-Verse cable setup on your WP7 mobile device. No details were discussed regarding the details of the implementation of this feature.
Joe Belfiore, a key developer on the WP7 team, took the stage to walk the attendees through the finer details of the final product. The experience is based around hubs, where different functions are organized depending and when and how you want to access them. Hardware buttons, unlike on Android phones, are consistent across all hardware. He went through the various hub tiles he put on his own phone, focusing on the social networking and entertainment capabilities of the system. He demonstrated the ease of which you can customize your phone and all the various hubs and activities. It’s not only easy, but it’s also fast. He showed how fast it is to open the camera, snap a picture and access that photo while still in viewfinder mode to share it, save it, etc.
He then focused on the messaging hub. He panned through various Exchange folders and opened an attachment, displaying some of the Office apps built in the phone, which he promised were more powerful and robust than other solutions on the market. Belfiore also talked about text entry. He typed very fast and showed the correction tools that WP7 employs.
The search tool is (obviously) powered by Bing. The search experience is supposed to help you make decisions instead of just giving you list of links. Searching for Thai food will automatically predict that you’re looking for a restaurant, but you can swipe to web results if that’s not what you’re looking for. The voice search uses the Microsoft cloud to analyze voice instead of processing on the phone. Unfortunately, as shown at the event, if you don’t have access to the cloud, you can’t use the full capabilities of voice search.
He then moved on to hubs. There are 6 main hubs. The people hub is a contacts hub that allows you to find information on the various people in your phone. It integrates all kinds of social networking tools, like Facebook and Twitter, as well as simple calling and messaging actions. It links services together to build a rich contact experience, with photos and other relevant info.
The pictures hub displays your pictures, of course, but it also shows pictures pulled in from your social feed as well as synchronizes from PC sources.
The Office hub is dedicated to MS Office and its new mobile capabilities. It has OneNote and Sharepoint functionality, which are two important business needs currently not met by many mobile offerings. The OneNote app syncs OneNote content in real time from your PC or web-based OneNote client to you phone.
The Music hub is basically the Zune UI. It’s a smooth, slick interface that organizes your mucic and video content. It integrates third party services like YouTube and iheartradio directly into the Music hub interface to streamline the online music experience. The Zune Pass was displayed, along with the rich search capabilities that the service allows.
He segued into apps, and the various applications becoming developed by third parties for the WP7 platform. He showed off the EBay and iMDB apps. They were nicely integrated into the whole WP7 look and feel, and looked very nice on the big screen. He showed off U-Verse mobile, demonstrating the on-demand entertainment options that the service supplies.
The Games hub features robust Xbox 360 Live integration. WP7 games, and the activity of the user, will all be synced with your overall XBL profile. Your avatar is fully featured and customizable from your phone. Belfiore played some games on the phone. He announced EA as an official gaming partner in WP7, and announced The Sims as a launch title. The games displayed were developed using the XNA gaming development platform. The games performed admirably as far as visuals go, and featured fully capable XBL capabilities such as achievements.
He ended his presentation with the announcement of a copy and paste update to the OS in early 2011, a feature many people requested.
Ballmer got back on stage and concluded with a video presentation of different hardware manufacturers voicing their optimism in the new WP7 platform.
Specifics about the various launch devices can be found here, and stay tuned for a hands-on review from Tom Warren.