Windows Phone’s Cloud Companion Services (Video)
With the recent update from Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 7.5, Microsoft’s Windows Phone cloud-based companion sites have also seen some updates. First off WindowsPhone.com has seen a redesign, but that page just kind of gives you basic information. The new “Marketplace” link at the top is quite useful though. That will let you browse through all the apps available for Windows Phone. You can also purchase them right there and send a link to your phone to install the apps. If you’ve already installed an app that you see there, you’ll also be able to post a review. Of course you can read other reviews, see the description and screen shots for each app as well. It’s great to see a web-based app-store return to Windows Phone since it was available in the days of Windows Mobile 6.5.
The “My Phone” link is also pretty important since this is basically the portal to all of your cloud-based services on Windows Phone. You’ve got a quick view of all the photos that you may have auto-synced to Windows Live. You’ve got links to your Office documents in SkyDrive, all of which are accessible from your Windows Phone, but also the Office Web Apps have been updated with more features so that for basic things you may not even need to open the files in Office 2010 (you can just use the in-browser application versions.)
The Bing Scrapbook is a new feature that keeps track of your “Check-ins” if you have turned on that feature and have actually posted some check-ins from your phone. It’s a neat way to keep track of all of the places that you’ve been, but that’s about the extent of the features that this service currently contains.
The Xbox LIVE section loads your avatar and gives you links to see which games you’ve played and how many achievements you’ve got for each. You can edit your avatar’s appearance and buy new avatar items, clothing, and props. You can even play a web-based chess game against other Windows Phone users either between phones or between a phone and PC or any combination thereof.
There’s also quick links to your Windows Live contacts, calendar, and email, as well as suggestions for getting unlimited cloud-based music downloads/streaming via Zune Pass and a link to download the Zune software in case you want to load other music, videos, and images to the phone from your PC.
Overall, Windows Phone 7.5’s cloud services seem to be very comprehensive. Just about everything is accounted for; streaming music, photo/video sharing, cross platform Xbox game (only one right now), contacts, calendar, tasks, email, lost phone retrieval services, document/file management in SkyDrive, and check-in tracking. The only things that I feel are missing are an interface for accessing text messages on the phone, game-progress syncing, web browser favorites syncing, email account settings syncing (for accounts besides Windows Live), and a better way to manage which apps are installed or not installed on my phone.