Windows Mobile: The Journey
Considering mobile phones have slowly evolved into miniature computing devices in their own right, it was surprising that one of the biggest players in the software application and operating systems industries did not have a product for mobile phones for a long time.
When Microsoft finally launched a mobile operating system, it was in 2000 and it was called the Pocket PC. After another iteration of Pocket PC, they decided to rechristen their product to the simple, yet unambiguous, Windows Mobile.
Windows Mobile cycled through various generations of the operating system over the years. Windows Mobile versions 5 and 6 were possibly the best received. At the Mobile World Congress 2009, there were expectations that Windows Mobile 7 would be released. However this was not the case; as they merely demonstrated 6.5, leaving many disappointed.
This year, however, it is a different story, as Windows Phone 7 was launched, amid great fanfare, at the Mobile World Congress 2010.
What’s new in 7?
Compared to the older versions, there are huge changes that have been made to the latest version of the mobile operating system. It starts with the hardware itself – the operating system is based on a Windows CE 6 kernel, instead of 5.
The user interface has received a complete revamp, destroying the old to build the new. Gone are the familiar drop-down menus, radio buttons and check boxes of Windows Mobile phones. In fact, there aren’t even the menus used to navigate on other phones. It is now called Metro, and is a complete departure from anything seen on phones before.
There are hubs instead, each representing a different section of the phone. For instance, the People hub, which is a block on the homepage with flickering images of different people, navigates into another homescreen-like interface. There are different screens available, which can be accessed by sliding over to the next. The People hub is populated by applications like contacts, Facebook and Twitter, depending on the user settings. New updates from each contact are shown in a feed reminiscent of Facebook.
The Pictures hub is similar, drawing in pictures from home media and online services, in addition to the phone itself. The interesting point to note here is Microsoft’s deep commitment to the cloud – as this particular hub pulls all the content from there. The cloud is a valuable addition to Windows Phone 7, essentially presenting an anytime-anywhere backup option for mobile users.
There is even a hub dedicated solely to the user, with information about pictures they’ve just clicked, their status messages, games they’re playing, and much more besides. Online services users will appreciate how convenient it is to view all social networking sites from one application.
The music experience is brought to the phone using Microsoft’s wildly popular Zune. It has the facility to view videos, play music or listen to podcasts, in a way mirroring the experience of the sleek device.
Multitasking has been practically done away with, although Microsoft has put another mechanism in its place. Instead of keeping multiple apps open at the same time, the data is saved like snapshots to the memory and the memory-heavy user interface elements are shut down. Interestingly, Microsoft calls this ‘dehydration and rehydration’ – which is concept that could catch on pretty quickly.
When to expect Windows Phone 7
After its dramatic entrance into the world of mobile phones, the actual operating system will not be available for a while yet. The word is that Microsoft has some fairly stringent requirements as to the hardware they want their operating system to be installed on.
The official press release says the phone will be in time for the holiday season, and hopefully that doesn’t mean on the 24th of December.