We should ignore the Windows brand extension on Microsoft’s new Phone 7 OS, and instead focus on what it actually offers.
It looks to me like the first of the next generation of operating platforms, mobile or desktop, in which social capabilities are treated as foundational:
Ian Williams, Microsoft unveils Windows Phone Series 7 OS
According to [Joe] Belfiore [vice president of Windows Phone], the primary focus of the Windows Phone 7 OS is “aggregating discrete sources of data into a centralised repository that’s fun and easy to use.”
As a result, the OS includes six hubs, each of which pulls together content and services based on a particular theme.
The the first four hubs are: People, which combines contact and status information from the address book, social networks and server locations like Microsoft Exchange; Pictures, which grabs photos on the phone, those synced with a PC and web services like Flickr or Live Gallery; Games, which combines locally stored mobile games with Xbox Live details including your avatar; and Music + Video, which is a direct port of the software that drives the Vole’s Zune media player and has a PC linked content library and online music including streaming services.
Not entirely forsaking its work ethic, or rather its PC applications cash cow, Microsoft has dubbed the fifth hub Office, which brings together access to the Vole’s standard Microsoft Office suite as well as Onenote, Sharepoint and Outlook. Somehow it apparently seems to think that people are going to want to work with those fully-fledged PC applications, beyond just email and text messaging, on their relatively small phone screens.
Last is the Marketplace hub that taps into Microsoft’s app store, which so far has failed to impress.
The question is: what will the winning metaphors of social engagement on these platforms?
I don’t think it’s Facebook, but in the absence of interoperable standards for following, liking, and reposting, Microsoft chose Facebook. In fact it’s as if Microsoft built Facebook’s phone for them. But the ‘People Hub’ is just a sophisticated client, and Windows 7 has put social interaction in the foreground, but not built in at a fundamental level in the OS.
But the real answer is a next generation OS. I am expecting that from Apple, though, as a slow ascension of features in iOS, then finally reflected back into a future version of Mac OS.
The ones that could do something radical is Google, with Android, but they aren’t, either. Brian Chen is gaga over Microsoft’s attention to managing its hardware partners:
The crucial part of Microsoft’s new phone strategy is the quality control it imposes onto its hardware partners. Rather than code an operating system and allow manufacturers to do whatever they want with it — like Google is doing with Android — Microsoft is requiring hardware partners to meet a rigid criteria in order to run Windows Phone 7.
Each device must feature three standard hardware buttons, for example, and before they can ship with Windows Phone 7, they have to pass a series of tests directed by Microsoft. (As I mentioned in a feature story about Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has created new lab facilities containing robots and automated programs to test each handset to ensure that features work properly and consistently across multiple devices.)
I don’t buy that as some tremendous advantage over Android. It sounds like an attempt to get some of the bang that Apple gets from not licensing its stuff out to anybody.
If Microsoft is going to have a hit with Phone 7 it will be as a Facebook device. Period. And not because of relative quality differences over Android.