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What we still don't know about new Windows phones

Although Microsoft's new operating system is intriguing, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. CNET's Ina Fried explores some of these.

As someone who has watched Windows Mobile for a long time (and been critical for just as long), I must say my curiosity has been piqued.

What Microsoft has shown of its new mobile operating system looks nothing like the tired Windows interface of old; instead it looks like the much more enjoyable Zune HD. The idea of putting people and photos in one place where one can do multiple things is a good one. The connection to Xbox Live could help Microsoft appeal to a whole new area, while a pervasive connection to social networks like Facebook is also a key advance.

But Microsoft isn't showing the devices themselves, or even going into that much detail about the new software. That means that for every potentially cool feature, there are also many questions yet to be answered.

One of the key questions is how much, if any, software written for previous versions of Windows Mobile will work on the new phones. Microsoft has said we will have to wait until next month's Mix conference for the answer to that one. I did find out that the new Windows Phone will still have Windows CE (albeit a new version) at their core. So, although developers may have some user interface work to do, it does seem that they shouldn't have to start over.

Another question is what the products will look like once carriers and phone makers have gotten their hands on it. Microsoft has promised that it has been far more restrictive than in past years about both what goes inside the phones as well as how the software looks to consumers.

Microsoft also isn't commenting about a parallel phone effort, code-named Pink, that is being designed by Microsoft and in many ways represents the evolution of the Sidekick business that Microsoft inherited with its acquisition of Danger. Those devices, though yet to be announced, are due to hit the market before 7 Series phones from other companies.

And of course, there is a question that Microsoft couldn't answer, even if it wanted to: how much innovation will there be on the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm, and Android operating systems between now and when the first Windows Phone 7 Series devices make their debut in the fourth quarter?

In any case, at least Microsoft has finally made it interesting.