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7/19/2010
02:24 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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Mixed Early Opinions On Windows Phone 7

Microsoft provided select press outlets with early prototype Windows Phone 7 devices. According to the previews, Microsoft has done some good work, but still has a lot to do to make a comeback.

Windows Phone 7 may have just reached the "technical preview stage" and Microsoft may be sending prototype handsets to developers, but that doesn't mean the new mobile operating system is ready. Not by a long shot. Early previews of the OS note a number of missing and unfinished features.

Engadget, Gizmodo, Boy Genius Report and others were given prototype handsets with the technical preview version of WP7 loaded. The user interface, they note, is called Metro, and similar to the KIN, makes use of tiles to arrange content and "Hubs" -- which are the foundation of how the user interface is organized and navigated. The basic assessment is that it is a little barren, but smooth, quick, and responsive.

Email and Office productivity apps get a big thumbs up from nearly everyone who tried WP7. They reported that setting up Exchange, POP3/IMAP4 and Gmail email accounts was a snap. Engadget wrote, "The email app on the phone is pretty terrific on the whole, providing a clean, clear layout and upfront options for your most-used functions." WP7 does, however, get dinged for the lack of rich editing features in the Docs application.

The browsing and media integration features of WP7 are lauded as great. WP7 will be shipping with a version of Internet Explorer 7 on board, and the early reviews say it holds its own against the iPhone, Android and WebKit-based browser for BlackBerries.

Boy Genius Report was not as impressed as Engadget or Gizmodo, however. It wrote, "Microsoft's browser is fine, but it's far from pleasurable to use. It's not the most elegant browser (there might just be some software bugs that will be fixed in the first shipping handset) and we at times had some pages that didn't render properly, and were a little janky after scrolling through them."

The Zune experience earned high marks, as Microsoft's Zune Marketplace and software is fairly mature at this point. WP7 owners will be pleased with the level of integration they can enjoy between their PC and their phone.

Microsoft has built Facebook into Windows Phone 7's Outlook and "People" (a.k.a., contacts) applications. This lets users interact more seamlessly with their Facebook and business contacts in one place. Gizmodo wrote, "I signed in to Google and Facebook, and magically, the People hub was populated with all of my contacts from both services, neatly linked with profile pictures from Facebook."

Everyone gushed about the Windows Phone 7 virtual keyboard. Engadget noted, "Let's just put this up front: the keyboard in Windows Phone 7 is really, really good. We're talking nearly as good as the iPhone keyboard, and definitely better than the stock Android option. It's one of the best and most accurate virtual keyboards we've used on any platform -- and that's saying a lot." When the iPhone first launched, many were skeptical about the software QWERTY keyboard, but they have now become a standard feature on touch-based devices.

In conclusion, each site offering up a nice view of where Microsoft is, and what it has yet to do.

Gizmodo's verdict explained, "Windows Phone 7 is good. Really good. It has the raw components needed to build a great smartphone. Or at least, one from 2009. Is that enough? It's starting a generation behind Android and iPhone, which now have tens of millions devices. On top of that, it's behind them functionally, too, missing things that are now table stakes, like copy and paste and multitasking for third-party applications. People might not know what 'multitasking' is, they'll just wonder why they can't play Pandora in the background."

Engadget wrapped up with, "What we've been presented with here doesn't exactly feel like a complete mobile operating system in many ways. Some parts of Windows Phone 7 are more like a wireframe -- an interesting design study, an example of what a next-gen phone platform could be. That's both good and bad. On one side, we're still really excited by the prospect of Metro as a viable, clean-slate approach to the mobile user experience, and there are lots of smart moves being made that could lead to greatness. On the other side, Microsoft has to turn this into a viable retail product that can hang with the fiercest competition in the history of the cellphone in just a few months' time, and there are some serious issues that need to be addressed. Frankly, it's a little scary."

Last, Boy Genius concluded, "For a phone that was made from scratch and started on after the first iPhone was introduced, and for a phone that’s not even in market yet, it unfortunately in our view falls short. There’s practically no real innovation we can see with Windows Phone 7. It’s a decent mashup of some already pioneered features like aggregated status updates linked with your contacts, customizable homescreens, and a mobile apps and music marketplace, but we’re not sure that’s enough to push WP7 ahead of the three big juggernauts."

I encourage you to read all three in-depth prereviews:

Engadget

Gizmodo

Boy Genius Report

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