Windows Phone 7 logo
In just a few days the official launch announcement from Microsoft for Windows Phone 7 is expected. In the meantime it seemed appropriate to publish a full and comprehensive preview of this new system that incorporates so many interesting pieces and pits itself in direct competition to Apple’s iPhone 4/iOS, Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry and numerous other products. I will include comment on some lesser known facts about Windows Phone 7 along with one or two predictions.

This release comes some 2 years after Microsoft choose to scrap previous plans to upgrade their existing Windows Mobile platform and start from scratch on a new mobile platform. To achieve such a release in this timeframe a huge team of over 1000 people was deployed by Microsoft to bring Windows Phone 7 to market (a story which I broke in Sept 2009 via this blog).

Windows Phone 7

I first got a good look at the Windows Phone 7 operating system back in March when Microsoft released the Community Technology Preview of the Windows Phone 7 Developer tools. With the aid of a multi-touch monitor I was soon able to get a feel for how the handset would operate on a device. The next step was in July when I got to see demo devices at a Microsoft conference in Washington DC. In recent weeks I’ve spent considerably more time looking at the software including a good chunk of hands of use of the software on demo handset hardware.

What impressed me from the beginning with Windows Phone 7 is that Microsoft are not just drawing on their previous mobile releases (i.e. Windows Mobile) or their known strengths such as solid Exchange integration, top notch gaming (Xbox), music and video downloads (Zune). They have clearly drawn on these things but also pulled some fresh things out of the bag too which I’ll get into in part 3.

Joe Belfiore, who has been with Microsoft for 20 years, announced Windows Phone 7 series (as it was called until ‘series’ was dropped from the name) with Steve Ballmer at Mobile World Congress in February. He had this to say – and I believe his excitement was real:

“ In my career at Microsoft, I’ve focused on user experience and design. I had the opportunity to lead the UI design for Windows XP. I managed the team that did Windows 95 UI design. I worked on Zune and Media Center. But for me today has got to be the biggest day in my career to unveil for you the new experience around Windows Phones. “

This first release of Windows Phone 7 has some things missing but so did other vendors first releases and Microsoft’s developers are already hard at work on features for future updates that will be downloadable for free. All signs are the software will not have any of the update issues that has plagued Android devices, but instead will update simply like Microsoft’s Zune devices and the Apple iPhone. Unlike the iPhone however, handsets will be available from a range of manufacturers and in a range of form factors (such as with or without a keyboard).

At this stage the official launch events are expected in October and November – with first handsets likely available for purchase from 21 October in multiple countries. I’ll provide more details on this in Part 2.

This preview will be published in the following parts (of which this is the first) over the next few days:

  1. Intro
  2. Handsets
  3. Operating System and Software
  4. Software Development – Silverlight, XNA and Native Apps
  5. Resources
  6. Conclusion

When Windows Phone 7 officially launches I will publish a full multi-part review.

Next section is Part 2: Handsets – follow me via @paulspain on Twitter to be alerted as each Part is published