Can Microsoft Kill the iSlate and iTablets with Windows Mobile 7?



WMExperts has gathered some information about Windows Mobile 7–referred to as Seven–that will offer some compelling features for business-class users and end-consumers.

Business Edition.

The first, Business Edition, is more a minimalistic version of Seven and should be ready first. Business Edition will allow OEM customizations–like Sense UI–and also have the ability to sync with the cloud across multiple devices. Microsoft, it seems, is touting tighter integration creating a compelling platform that draws from the best of Live/Bing services, Office, and Zune. The minimum resolution for Business Edition is WVGA at 480 X 800. Office collaboration here will be the killer feature and a great sell for enterprise consumers, and we’re hoping that the platform and the Office support is both robust and finger-friendly enough to prove to be useful.

Media Edition.

The second version is the Media Edition, which is reported to draw more power and resources. The Zune experience will hopefully be ported over, and we’ll see some streaming multimedia content teased at Mobile World Congress in a short month in Barcelona at Mobile World Congress. The release may have support for Silverlight, Mediaroom (to interact with cable TV services), Xbox live with possible gameplay, Facebook and Twitter integration, and of course, the Zune music integration for ease of sync. Media Edition is still said to be a work in progress and may be ready after Business Edition.

New Features.

GPS and location will be a huge part of 7 and the Orion platform could help fast GPS lock times for applications. WMExperts is reporting that “Planned performance for an initial lock (cold start) is targeted at less than 1 second and would find you within 300 meters. A hot or warm start is targeted at less than 0.25 seconds and would track you at less than 10 meters.” Hopefully, APIs for Orion will be released to developers for apps on 7.

New devices.

It looks like WXGA is the new WVGA. There are two devices that are noteworthy right now–the LG Apollo and the HTC Obsession–both of which feature huge multimedia support and processors exceeding the 1 GHz mark of today.

Analysis: Hype or Hope?

Windows Mobile 7 is getting a lot of hype and there are certainly many rumors going on about the platform. With Apple’s iSlate–a rumored tablet that is said to be announced at the end of January with support for iPhone firmware 4.0 and Apple iWorks (as an Office competitor)–Windows Mobile 7 can leverage the legacy of Windows Mobile without yet introducing another platform to confuse an already crowded marketplace with netbooks, smartbooks, Android tablets, Windows tablets, MIDs, PMPs, ereaders, and the such. Windows Mobile 7–essentially still a smartphone–can have the power, extensibility, and robustness of a full tablet device with the connectivity, portability and versatility, and battery life of a leading smartphone. Perhaps Microsoft is being more Apple than Apple is–bringing the simplicity of convergence to a market that’s been flooded with connected consumer electronics.

Game Changer: One Device to Rule Them All.

If in fact, the rumors presented by WMExperts are true, then 7 can make Windows phones the ultimate device–you have your music player via Zune integration, multimedia and recording capabilities with increased megapixels and HD video capture, and brilliant screens with high resolution multitouch displays. Additionally, for power users who demand a more open ecosystem than the iPhone and who need the ease of transporting documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on the go, 7 can be that game changer as it is still your smartphone that goes where you go–you don’t need yet another tablet to carry around (we’re looking straight at you iSlate).

With rumors of the iSlate supporting Apple’s iWorks software suite–which includes Pages as a Word replacement, Spreadsheets as an Excel alternative, and Keynote for your PowerPoint needs–along with a larger display, Apple’s platform may be getting disparate with a mobile phone (iPhone) and a tablet (iSlate) running two rumored similar but different iPhone OSes. Full featured Mac OS X users may be disappointed as the iSlate is said to be a beefier version of the iPhone OS rather than a trimmed OS X platform. Because of the proprietary nature of Apple’s iSlate, we’re not sure if Flash is to be supported, and you may not be able to run your favorite Mac programs or iPhone programs on the iSlate because it may differ from both platforms. According to today’s rumors, the iSlate isn’t a desktop alternative like traditional Tablet PCs, but rather serves as another platform in addition to other devices you may own.

On the other hand, with 7’s Business and Multimedia Editions, you’re still getting one device, of you choice depending on your needs, with the robustness and versatility that does everything–PowerPoints, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets along with fun games, mobile entertainment content, and perhaps even Xbox titles. The advantage here is that the platform is being kept together under a single OS rather than Apple’s approach of a beefier iPhone OS for the iSlate and a consumer smartphone. With Windows Mobile 7–pending rumors–you can get the best of the iPhone and iSlate (as far as feature sets though the user experience may be different) in one device. Additionally, because the iSlate doesn’t run a full OS, you’ll still be left with a “crippled” OS that doesn’t do all the things that a desktop OS may do–like Flash or running your favorite desktop program. Therefore, to enter the Apple ecosystem, you may still need an iPhone, an iSlate for couch surfing, and a Mac of some sort for heavier tasks; with Microsoft’s ecosystem, Windows phone and a Windows system would be all that you would theoretically need.

Could Windows Mobile 7 be the crown jewel of Microsoft’s empire? It certainly is the platform that can leverage and bring synergy across many of Microsoft’s different groups–bringing the best of Live/Bing services for a connected experience, productivity from the Office team, fun from the Xbox group, design and user experience expertise of the Zune HD platform, and so much more in a convenient package. Seven isn’t an app, and contrary to Apple’s marketing minds, there isn’t an app for that, but there is a device for that: It’s a phone and a tablet–the device that you’ll always have because your phone goes with you. It’s 7–and it’s Microsoft’s idea. Brilliant.

(Seven rumors via WMExperts)

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Chuong Nguyen