Windows Phone – New and Daring or Same Old Mobile?

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At the Mobile World Congress 2010 today, Microsoft unveiled the Windows Phone 7 Series, now known as Windows Phone.  A lot of hype and hoopla has buzzed around with this announcement, which came as a surprise to most in the press.  Looking through that hype, the question remains: is this really something new and revolutionary from the Seattle Giant or is it just the same old Windows Mobile with a new name?

The first step is the hardware requirements for the new phone OS itself.  Ina Fried at CNet News covers that well, explaining the strict specifications that Microsoft requires of phone makers.  It’s a first clue as to what MS is planning with this platform.

Microsoft is also designing their own phone, code-named Pink, that is supposed to be out this year – before any third-party phones are released.  This can be seen as either a bold move on their part or a sure way to get phone makers to walk away from the new OS.  Time will tell on that one.

One thing is obvious: Microsoft is worried about Apple’s virtual ownership of the smart phone market and that Google has already stepped up to the plate to compete.  The Microsoft Mobile OS has been showing its age and lack of innovation, losing what little ground it had in the phone market.

MobileCrunch got some hands-on time with the Microsoft demonstrator, though no photography was allowed, and reporter Greg Kumparak gave impressions of the new OS.  From that, we learn some details of the interface for the OS and how it performs.

Putting these two things together, here’s what can be concluded: it’s not just the same old Mobile.  In fact, it’s distinctly new, starting from the ground up, and has a few things you cannot find elsewhere.  The interface appears to mimic many aspects of the iPhone and Nexus One OS, but with a few twists.  Everything is (apparently) customizable and focused on two things: social networking and LIVE integration.

The social networking includes most major apps like Facebook and Twitter as well as connectivity with Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE network of games, avatars, profiles and so forth.  This includes integration with Zune, another of MS’ properties.

Definitely cool to see and how it unfolds will be interesting.  Microsoft is certainly poised to become a big player in the mobile game, but given their history, whether they can succeed at it without getting too bureaucratic and ruining their chances is something that only time will tell.

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