Though many are excited for the launch of Windows Phone 7 Series, a lot of uncertainties remain. CNET tries to answer a few of the most frequently asked questions.
What will the devices look like?
Microsoft showed off only a prototype device when it debuted Windows Phone 7 Series at Mobile World Congress 2010. It's unclear what the phones will look like, but what's interesting is that all WP7 devices will be required to have three hardware buttons: Home, Search, and Back. The OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) also won't be allowed to replace or skin the user interface; the goal being to give all WP7 Series a consistent UI.
At Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the company's Windows Phone 7 Series OEM and carrier partners.
Hardware partners include Dell, HTC, Garmin-Asus, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and Toshiba. Qualcomm will be the chip provider. Carrier partnerships include AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Sprint, Verizon Wireless, Deutsch Telecom, Orange, Telecom Italia, SFR, Telefonica, Telstra, and Vodafone.
Microsoft says the OS was designed so that you can do things like listen to music and search the Web at the same time. However, it seems we won't get true multitasking on WP7 like we do on Palm's WebOS. This specifically affects third-party apps. For example, even though you can play music using the built-in Zune player while working on another task, a third-party music app wouldn't be able to do the same thing using its own technology.
Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's corporate vice president and director of
Windows Phone Program Management, told CNET News reporter Ina Fried that the company is more
focused on ensuring apps can save their place when another app is open
in the foreground, than on having them run in the background.
Microsoft also demonstrated how push notifications would work on Windows Phone 7 at MIX10. Using the Major League Soccer app as an example, Microsoft's Charlie Kindel showed how you could be working in the Calendar app and still receive notifications (e.g., updated soccer scores) via an inconspicuous pop-up alert along the top of the screen, even if the app isn't running. From there, the user can tap on the notification to open the full app and get more information.
Will developers have to completely rewrite their apps for WP7?
Silverlight and XNA will be the main means for developing software for WP7 Series phones. The image to the left shows a proof-of-concept game called The Harvest created by Luma Arcade in about three weeks using XNA Game Studio 4.0.
Developers can download the Windows Phone Developer Tools now, which includes Visual Studio
2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone 7 Series Add-in for Visual
Studio, Windows Phone 7 Series Emulator, and XNA Game Studio 4.0, as
well as a preview of Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone.
Developers will have to submit their applications for approval, but Microsoft plans to make the process more transparent than Apple and will meet regularly to reexamine rules and adjust them if needed.
App partners already onboard with Windows Phone 7 Series include Pandora, Shazam, Seesmic, Foursquare, Namco, EA Mobile, the Associated Press, and Sling Media.
Microsoft will continue to support Windows Mobile 6.5 devices once WP7 launches and recently revealed that it will release new WM 6.5 smartphones for years to come.
The bad news is that WM 6.5 handsets, such as the HTC HD2 pictured here, won't be upgradeable to WP7. Microsoft's Charlie Kindel wrote in his blog, "To enable the fantastic user experiences you've seen in the Windows
Phone 7 Series demos so far, we've had to break from the past. To deliver what developers expect in the developer platform we've had to change
how phone apps were written. One result of this is previous Windows mobile applications will not run on Windows Phone 7 Series."
Microsoft has not shared details about the full Zune experience for Windows Phone 7 Series, including Zune Pass. We do know, however, that you will get access to online music services, a built-in FM radio, and Zune Social, as well as third-party plug-ins, such as Pandora.
With the announcement of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft also revealed that it will take its Zune desktop software international and this will be the client for syncing your phone to your PC (both wired and wirelessly). No more ActiveSync.