One hub is “productivity” which is built around the Microsoft Office suite, including the OneNote note-taking application, and Sharepoint Server. Other hubs organize and synchronize people and contacts, photos, music and video, games via the first mobile phone Xbox Live connection, and marketplace for buying and downloading applications and games.
These integrated user “experiences” represent a real advance in mobile design, according to some.
“This is one feature I expected in [Windows Phone 7] based on prior previews I had had with Microsoft, and this is going to be a huge strength,” says Alex Kac, president and founder of Web Information Systems, a Cedar Park, Texas software company specializing in mobile applications, including those for Microsoft platforms. “This is something Apple has done far better than Microsoft on the desktop, but not well at all on the iPhone and I'm excited to see that.”
The redesign is getting strong early reviews.
“The result is a feat no phone has performed before: Making the iPhone's interface feel staid,” says Gizmodo reviewer Matt Buchanan. “If you want to know what it feels like, the Zune HD [Microsoft’s digital music player] provides a taste: Interface elements that run off the screen; beautiful, oversized text and graphics; flipping, panning, scrolling, zooming from screen to screen….”
“The sheer minimalism of the interface is striking, and we're really impressed by how many risks Microsoft is taking here,” writes Joshua Topolsky, for Engadget. “It's hard to believe that just a year ago this company was showing off WM 6.5, which now looks ages behind what they've turned around with today. We're not sure if someone was just let off the leash or if we're seeing a newer, smarter, more agile Microsoft, but the 7 Series concept definitely shows that this company is learning from its mistakes.”
The Zune influence isn’t to everyone’s taste. Alex Kac admits that he’s not a fan of the Zune UI,though his objections are more aesthetic than functional. “I'm not a fan of the large typography and avant garde look,” he says. “I'm also not a fan of the blackness. The [Google] NexusOne [smartphone interface] is very black and I don't care for it.”
The new OS comes with Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, and Bing Maps, built-in, allowing a range of additional features to be exploited.
The revamped UI will be part of a new hardware platform that Microsoft has developed in an unprecedented partnership with hardware and software vendors, according to Microsoft’s Andy Lees. For the first time, Microsoft worked very closely with Qualcomm to optimize the phone’s silicon, presumably the advanced ARM-based Snapdragon processor, and the core OS software and drivers. Secondly, with its partners, Microsoft has developed a common hardware architecture for Windows Phone 7 devices, for example, defining how sensors such as accelerometers will work in all these handsets. Partners included Dell, HP, HTC, LG, Sony Ericsson, and Toshiba.