Windows Phone 7 is one step closer to launch, as Microsoft released its revamped mobile operating system for manufacturing on Wednesday.
With most of the internal engineering done, Windows Phone 7 OS RTM is now available to its OEM (original equipment manufacturers) and service provider partners, so they can complete their work on customizations and hardware in preparation for a holiday release.
Terry Myerson, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows Phone Engineering, wrote on the Windows Phone 7 Team Blog that Windows Phone 7 is the company's most thoroughly tested mobile platform, noting that it has run daily automated tests on nearly 10,000 devices with more than 3.5 million hours of stress test passes and 8.5 million hours of fully automated test passes.
Though Microsoft is just releasing the RTM now, OEMs and carriers have had builds in testing for some time and a technical preview was released to developers back in mid-July. Since then, Microsoft has received much response from the testers and has made some additional tweaks to Windows Phone 7 based on the feedback, with most of the enhancements centered on the People Hub.
For example, there is now a Contact Filtering option, so you can exclude Facebook contacts that don't exist in your other synced accounts (e.g., Outlook, Windows Live, Gmail). You also now get the ability to comment and post directly to someone's Facebook wall or like someone's status. To improve the user experience and discovery process, the company added a software/onscreen search button in the People Hub so you can more easily search for contacts.
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is taking more responsibility for the end-to-end experience, and thus you won't see the kind of skinning or deep customization as we've seen on past Windows Mobile devices from OEMs. However, Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Microsoft, told CNET that people will still have the opportunity to personalize the phones in a number of ways, such as prepopulating the Start screen with their own hubs, preconfiguring default themes, and having their own branded store in the Windows Marketplace.
Announced back at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft's OEM and carrier partners include Dell, HTC, Garmin-Asus, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, Verizon, Deutsch Telecom, Orange, Telecom Italia, SFR, Telefonica, Telstra, and Vodafone. It's not clear when or if these companies will launch Windows Phone 7 devices; however, LG, Samsung, and HTC have all received FCC approval on Windows handsets. Also, HP was originally on the list of partners, but has since said that it will solely focus on WebOS phones.
At CNET, we've been spending a lot of time looking at Microsoft's huge bet to get back in the phone game. CNET's Ina Fried has been traveling to Redmond to monitor its development. Part 1 of that series is available now, with more to come. She's also been living with the device full time for the last month and posted her likes and dislikes, and you'll find our technical preview of Windows Phone 7 here.