As many of you know, I’ve been using Windows Mobile based phones since the smartphone was invented. They’ve always been the most powerful and capable devices. However, when we started hearing about Windows Phone 7 earlier this year, it became clear that the classic Windows Mobile (that could run on all sorts of hardware and do all sorts of things) was about to be replaced by a completely new “Version 1.0” product. Even though it is number 7, it’s really something totally new and entirely unrelated to the old Windows Mobile that many of us have become accustomed to. On one hand, that’s a good thing since Windows Mobile has such a bad stigma attached to it. On the other hand, that could be a bad thing since we might be missing out on some functionality from the past. The question is, should we automatically upgrade to Windows Phone 7 simply because we’ve relied on classic Windows Mobile for so long?
On one hand, we’re losing
A lot of the things missing from Windows Phone 7, are things that I rely on in Windows Mobile 6.x. For example, Outlook tasks that sync with Exchange. Unfortunately, being able to keep track of the things you need to do for work or in life, didn’t make the cut for the first version of Windows Phone 7. This was initially pretty disappointing to me since Windows Mobile was really the only smartphone operating system left that could reliably sync Tasks directly with Exchange right out of the box. I also like having my Notes and voice recordings synced with Outlook. Both of those features appear to be gone from Windows Phone 7.
Then there’s the lack of 3rd party application multi-tasking. When I’m in the car, I’m always playing music on my phone while also running the GPS navigation software, listening to the voice prompts for when to turn, and occasionally using Voice Command to make a call, or listen to my schedule, or hear emails and text messages read to me. The initial version of Windows Phone 7 won’t be able to do all of that.
The lack of Copy/Paste support is also disconcerting, however we’ve heard that the feature is on the list to be implemented in an update. It just didn’t make it to the launch versions that was released to manufacturing last week.
On the other hand, we’re gaining
The Windows Phone 7 interface looks amazing. The fluff-free design is very refreshing. The way content is used as navigation and the way the quick animations are used to define context is very innovative and beautiful. Visual cues and readable text that anyone will be able to understand make the operating system’s usability stand out from other mobile OS’s.
The new design also brings a high level of consistency. With classic Windows Mobile, any OEM or application developer basically had free reign over every aspect. There were plenty of Windows Mobile devices where manufacturer’s added their own user interface layers that often felt completely out of place when compared to the rest of the operating system and any 3rd party applications you may want to use. Windows Phone 7 will remedy this by severely limiting crazy customizations and encouraging consistent design and usability guidelines.
Then there’s the new Music & Videos Hub. Earlier this spring I pretty much fell in love with the Zune HD, Zune desktop software, and Zune Pass service. Windows Phone 7 will take advantage of these highly under-rated features. The artist imagery, related artist links, and bio text is so nice to have, too. Since Windows Phone will have a persistent internet connection, you’ll be able to instantly download or stream practically any song you want using the Zune Pass subscription service. You’ll also have a connection to the Zune Social so you can earn achievements based on your play count. You can bet we’ll see more awesome Zune features in the future, such as Smart DJ, “Picks for You”, and social music sharing. Zune also supports syncing Windows Media Center recorded TV shows (as long as they’re not HD), as well as just about any type of video format (Zune should be able to convert it, if necessary).
OneNote syncing over SkyDrive is another fantastic feature that we’ll see in Windows Phone 7. This program can certainly replace the Outlook Notes syncing capability that I’ve relied on in Windows Mobile for over 10 years. OneNote is much more powerful. It even supports password protected sections, so if those are also supported in Windows Phone 7, I may have an eWallet replacement in OneNote as well. For many, OneNote might be able to replace the tasks list as well. It’s a great place to keep track of all of your projects, timing, and research, however it does not support due date reminder notifications, categories, or task assignments.
Then there’s the Xbox Live integration. Many people are very excited about the Xbox Live Games Hub on Windows Phone 7 and they have good reason to be. The Xbox Live community is very large, and Xbox users have been very interested in a portable Xbox device for a long time. Making it part of the phone operating system in order to compete with Sony’s Playstation Portable, Nintendo’s DS, as well as the Apple iOS gaming platform while integrating with the existing Xbox Live community was a great idea. I’ve never really cared much for gaming on a mobile device. The most mobile gaming I’ve done was a Bubble Breaker competition while waiting for a movie to start in the theater. However, the idea of turn-based asynchronous multi-player games that can be played across the phone, PC, and Xbox while also earning achievements is quite intriguing.
Developers, Developers, Developers! Microsoft seems to have made developing programs for Windows Phone 7 ridiculously easy. We’ve seen companies porting popular iPhone apps over to Windows Phone 7 in no time at all. With 300,000 downloads of the free developer tools and Silverlight/XNA development tutorials popping up all over the place, it seems like you can expect some great apps to start appearing on the Windows Phone 7 platform when it’s released. Of course, it’s true that there are already a ton of developers creating apps for the highly popular iPhone and Android platforms. Microsoft is trying to get an edge out on those extisting platforms by using developer tools and programming technologies that millions of Windows and Xbox developers are already very familiar with and making it extremely easy to repurpose code between Windows Phone 7, Xbox, and the PC. Allowing developers an easy way of creating applications that can be used across those three screens could be very advantageous.
So what do you think? Do all of the new positive features of Windows Phone 7 outweigh the positives from Windows Mobile 6.x?