If Windows Phone 7 flops, it certainly won't be for lack of trying. We've identified seven aspects of the new phones and operating system that should make Microsoft proud and has us intrigued.
1. Multiple EverythingMicrosoft has orchestrated a far more grandiose grand unveiling than either Apple or Android. Instead of a single phone from a single carrier like its rivals, there will be nine Windows Phones from four hardware makers (Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung), from multiple carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile to start in the U.S., Sprint sometime in the first half of next year, a total of 60 carriers worldwide), and in 30 countries. That's a lot of choices.
2. Integrated Mobile OfficeMost of the world, even Mac users, uses Microsoft Office products — Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook — and these are all naturally integrated into WP7 like no other office suite in any other mobile operating system. For business types, this capability, combined with Microsoft Exchange, might prove to be more of a lure than the distinctly un-businesslike iPhone for disaffected BlackBerry users.
3. No App GridsApple surprisingly didn't sue Google over Android's look and feel, but this time they have no copycat case against Microsoft. Windows Phone 7 hub-based tiled user interface doesn't look like any mobile operating you've seen. Instead of hunting for individual apps to accomplish something, the whole screen can be customized like the bottom row of apps on the iPhone by "pinning" a contact or photo or Web page or app or anything to the home screen.
4. Live TilesRemember that scene during the climax of The Devil's Advocate, when the painting behind the scenery-chewing Al Pacino comes to life? That's sort of what WP7's animated tiles remind me of. All of a sudden, images in the tiles start to move. There are no satyrs, but it's kind of spooky cool. And if the tiles aren't animated, you get a large numeric indication of unread or new items.
5. Dedicated Camera KeyYour phone's asleep but a scene is quickly developing demanding a snapshot be taken? On an iPhone or most Androids, you have to wake the phone up, slide the lock screen away, then locate the camera app. By the time you get the phone into shooting mode, the opportunity has passed. But all Windows Phones have a dedicated camera key that, when pressed and held, bypasses the lock screen and, in just a couple of seconds, goes right to the camera app for candid capture.
6. U-Verse Subscription ServiceApple has iTunes and à la carte video, but a subscription service is more suited for mobile devices. Microsoft has struck a deal giving Windows Phones access to all AT&T U-Verse content for a monthly fee. Unfortunately, no details (such as pricing) are available yet. But if you happen to be a home U-Verse subscriber, you'll get all that access through Windows Mobile for no extra charge. And of course, each handset maker and carrier is likely to add supplemental services such as a Netflix app. All of these offerings instantly makes Windows Phones the best mobile content hardware ever.
7. They're CheapMost Windows Phone models have a 3.5-inch-plus screen, a 1GHz Snapdragon engine, 16 GB of built-in memory, a 5MP camera, HD video recording, integrated Mobile Office, multi-player Xbox Live gaming, U-Verse subscription video — all for $200. Okay, maybe not cheap, but they're not more expensive than the top Android models and the 16GB iPhone 4, and the fact that their not puts Microsoft right in the game.
But Microsoft giveth and Microsoft taketh away. For a taste of the other site, read about 7 Awful Things About Windows Phone 7.