Microsoft, which has always been something of an also-ran in
the smart phone category, appears to finally be getting serious about the
space. The company today unveiled its next generation operating system for
smart phones at the ongoing Mobile World Congress.
Windows Phone – previously called Windows Mobile 7 – looks
to be a potential strong contender against the iPhone- and Android-based
systems. It’s a completely new Windows experience that borrows heavily from the
operating system used in the company’s Zune personal media player. (Not
surprisingly, Zune will be included with every phone running the system.)
The mobile OS organizes data as hubs, which gather related
content. Those hubs include:
People – blending Facebook feeds with texts and IM
updates. (You can also update your social networks via this hub.)
Pictures – In addition to viewing your own shots,
you’ll also be able to upload and download from social networks.
Games – Xbox Live finally makes it onto the cell
phone – four years after Microsoft announced it was coming. You’ll be able to
see your avatar, achievements and profile – and receive requests to join
friends in a game. Microsoft stopped short of indicating if Windows Phone
equipped devices would be able to contribute to gameplay in any form or
Music & Video – Since the OS includes Zune,
you’ll be able to access HD Radio and subscribe to the Zune Pass
all-you-can-eat monthly subscription model to download music. Video will also
be available – presumably on the go.
Office – This was a gimme. The system will support
all Office programs, such as Word, Outlook and PowerPoint – though, let’s be
honest, that’s more for viewing. I doubt anyone plans to create a detailed
PowerPoint presentation on their smart phone, no matter how good it is.
Phones using the system will be available this holiday
season. It’s likely to be widely available also. Carriers that have signed on as partners
include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia,
Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. Hardware
partners include Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson,
Toshiba and Qualcomm.
Update: Want to see the system in action – and have a lot of time to spare? Microsoft has a 22-minute video available.