Today, Microsoft officially unveiled their next mobile OS, Windows Phone 7 Series, at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona. In a live press conference, corporate vice president and director of Windows Phone Program Management Joe Belfiore gave a demonstration of the OS's many new features utilizing a prototype device (the Zune Phone?).
First of all, phones utilizing the OS will have at least three intuitive hardware buttons: Start, Search, and Back. Start will simply bring you to the main home screen, while Search brings up the Bing experience page, and of course Back will return you to the previous page. On the touchscreen side of things, the OS features the now usual multi-touch support.
The home screen consists of what Microsoft calls Live Tiles. Not only do these serve as navigational buttons, but they also provide the user with tidbits of information gathered from the Internet. As the name suggests, the icons for these buttons update themselves regularly based on the page they correspond to. For example, the People Tile displays photos of your contacts collected from various sources such as Facebook. The Start page is fully customizable, allowing users to add, remove, and organize their tiles at will.
The Bing search page provides users with a dynamic search experience. Belfiore showed how with a search for "sushi", Bing determined he was searching for a place to eat and initially displayed a localized map of nearby sushi restaurants. With a flick of the finger, users would be able to move over to the general web search results and other search options.
Microsoft stressed the OS's focus on integration with the use of hubs. These hubs bring together information and functionality from a vast array of sources into one place. Examples of hubs include People, Pictures, Office, Music + Video, and Games. The Music + Video hub provides full Zune integration and functionality, as well as the use of other third-party music applications such as Pandora. The Games hub brings the Xbox Live service to the phone, allowing users to play various games and view avatars and stats/achievements.
Microsoft worked together with their hardware partners (Qualcomm, LG, Samsung, Garmin-ASUS, HTC, HP, Dell, Sony-Ericsson, and Toshiba) to develop a core set of hardware specifications and drivers. That is not to say partners and OEMs are not free to work on their own innovations. Microsoft simply wanted to make sure the interface between hardware and software was optimized for peak performance consistently across all 7 series phones.
Unfortunately, the first version of Windows Phone 7 will not feature Flash support, though Steve Ballmer made sure to mention they were not against such support in later versions.
Carrier launch partners include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone. The first phones featuring Windows Phone 7 Series are expected to hit the market during the holiday season.
For more info, check out the full press conference here. Microsoft have also put up a Silverlight demo here to give you an idea of how a device might handle.