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Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Hands-on Preview

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Hands-on Preview

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Hands-on Preview

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 Hands-on Preview

We've reached the month of August, and in a few short months, we should be looking at devices powered by Microsoft's updated Windows Phone 7 platform. We had an inkling of what Windows Phone 7 will bring to the table when it was unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2010. With six months passing by, our radar homed in to this upcoming mobile platform. Thanks to the folks at Microsoft, we managed to get some hands-on time with a device running on Windows Phone 7. Before you do continue with this article, you might want to catch a quick refresher on the basics of Windows Phone 7 over here.

Over at the Microsoft office, we were given a peek at what Windows Phone 7 will look like on an actual device. Do note it is a reference device, and as such, isn't indicative of the actual performance of Windows Phone 7.

Our earlier coverage touched upon the platform's home screen, now populated by live tiles. During our conversation with Matthew Hardman, Windows Client Business Group Lead (Business and Marketing), we were informed that the home screen has a grid limitation of 10 rows and 2 columns. Namely, you can place up to 20 tiles consisting of 1 x 1 tile size, or 10 tiles consisting of 2 x 1 tiles depending on the customization you employ for your home screen.

We've also mentioned that user interface customization is no longer an option, given Microsoft's stance in providing a uniform experience across all devices. Thus, live tiles prove to be a significant part of Windows Phone 7, as device manufacturers such as HTC or Samsung can create their own live tiles as a form of customization. Even service providers can tailor live tiles as they see fit when you purchase a device via them.

Hardman also highlighted how Windows Phone 7 aims to provide a seamless integration of social networking services into the various hubs. This is evident in its People and Pictures hub, which can be linked to a range of online services such as Microsoft's Windodws Live and SkyDrive, and grabs status updates and image posts from Facebook. Context is the key here, where each hub will pinpoint the specific ongoings of each contact, and provides a list of updates accordingly.

Furthermore, captured images using the Windows Phone 7 device's camera can be automatically uploaded onto your Windows Live account via Skydrive, or published onto Facebook should you provide it with the permission to do so.

We did notice that Twitter hasn't been added as part of the native services linked to Windows Phone 7. Microsoft doesn't discount the possibility of adding Twitter into its integration, but as of now, it's not supported. On another note, twitter updates pushed on to Facebook will be picked up by the phone.

The Music+Video hub hasn't seen much change, but we also spotted how you can drag a specific multimedia file as a live tile onto the home screen. However, given the limitation on the number of live tiles on the home screen, this could be a feature that you might not want to explore if you need the additional space. Furthermore, Windows Phone 7 doesn't support nested tiles, or otherwise also known as folder management. So the supported 20 live tiles is the maximum you can populate the screen.

On the Office hub, it's not too hard to get work done with the suite of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint features on Windows Phone 7. OneNote was also demonstrated during this session, which gave us a look at how you can type, capture an image and even add voice notes onto OneNote and upload onto Windows Live. Video captures are however not supported on the OneNote provided in the phone.

With its main interface being discussed and revealed, we've also posed a few questions regarding Windows Phone 7. Following which, here are a few points that you should take note if you're eyeing a Windows Phone 7 device:

1. While the timeframe isn't exactly obvious, Microsoft's COO Kevin Turner did mention the transitional period for Windows Phone 7 to take place in October for Europe, November for the States. As such, Windows Phone 7 is still on track for availability by the holidays of 2010, though the devices' availability is still subjected to manufacturers' roadmap.

2. Microsoft's Bing search engine has a huge role in the development of Windows Phone 7. Further to that, the demonstration unit was also shown to run Bing Maps (with a Singapore map). Turn-by-turn navigation hasn't been confirmed to be available as of now.

3. Apps will be one of the highlights for Windows Phone 7, with developers having the option to utilize Microsoft's Silverlight for apps development. However, developers will have to rework their current Windows Mobile 6.5 apps to function with the new framework found on Windows Phone 7. Further to that, there will be changes made to Microsoft's Windows Mobile Marketplace, which will be announced in the weeks to come.

4. Finally, in line with its integration focus, Windows Phone 7 will also be intricately tied to Microsoft's Xbox Live platform. In fact, this is where developers will be able to tap onto the two co-existent platforms. According to Microsoft, there will be further announcements on the development of Xbox Live aspects on Windows Phone 7.

That's it for now, but stay tuned for more updates in the near future.