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2/24/2010
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Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Details On Windows Phone 7 Hardware

One of the benefits for manufacturers for Windows Mobile phones until now has been the incredibly wide variety of hardware they could build for the mobile platform. Windows Phone 7 Series is going to change all of that. Microsoft is strictly controlling the hardware specs that are allowed for the device. We've got some rumors on what is and isn't allowed.

One of the benefits for manufacturers for Windows Mobile phones until now has been the incredibly wide variety of hardware they could build for the mobile platform. Windows Phone 7 Series is going to change all of that. Microsoft is strictly controlling the hardware specs that are allowed for the device. We've got some rumors on what is and isn't allowed.




Windows Phone 7
(click for image gallery)

For a few years, early Pocket PC/Windows Mobile phones all had basically the same form factor. A 320x240 screen and maybe a keyboard was about it. The "Smartphone" devices, those without touch screens, had slightly smaller screens, but those too were the same across the line. Then when Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition shipped, things started changing. Now you had landscape screens, square screens and much larger resolutions. Keyboards became the norm. Devices like the HTC Universal pushed the bounds with its 640x480 180 degree swivel screen, large six row keyboard, dual cameras and more showed what the platform was capable of.

Enter Windows Phone 7 Series. Microsoft now has strict chassis requirements. Chassis 1 is what we all saw last week at Mobile World congress and it basically requires an 800x480 capacitive touch screen, accelerometer, FM radio, 3.5mm headphone jack, GPS, 5MP camera and more. Since these are requirements and not suggestions, it will be hard for manufacturers to differentiate their devices.

Ars Technica has some details on Chassis 2 and at least knows that Chassis 3 exists, or will at some point. Chassis 2 looks like it will be Chassis 1 with the addition of some sort of keyboard, probably a slide out. There is no information on Chassis 3. Unless 3 allows for a non-touch screen, the current Windows Mobile Standard device is a thing of the past. Touch is in, dpad scrolling is out.

I get why Microsoft is doing this. First of all, Apple did it and it works. Second though, the permutations of possible devices with WinMo 6.5 given its broad specs caused problems for developers. There were many resolutions to contend with, many in portrait and landscape orientations. Manufacturers made it worse by putting their custom UI's on it, and in the case of some, their own touch screen drivers that allowed for capacitive screens on a platform that wasn't designed for it. It became a nightmare for developers to keep up, often having to make specific code changes for a single device.

This is an effort by Microsoft to regain control over its platform. Google would be wise to do the same. Android phones are starting to fragment the platform since Google allows the manufacturers to do pretty much what they want. That might be good for a manufacturer trying to make their phone stand out. It isn't so good for developers and that means in the long run, not good for the platform. At the other end of the spectrum is the iPhone, which has had the same form factor for almost three years. One chassis spec is too few, and infinity is too many. Microsoft is trying for two or three to keep things manageable.

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