What Is Different About Windows Phone 7?

Microsoft is differentiating the Windows Phone 7 series by providing deeper integration with web services. Unlike Motoblur, which is a layer that Motorola added to Android to integrate social networking, Microsoft has built this type of integration right into the device. Windows Phone 7 will show your contact’s Facebook status and profile pictures without any additional software. Palm Pre users will no doubt say this type of integration already exists in webOS, and they are right, so it remains to be seen whether Windows Phone 7 integrates with more services or performs better than webOS.

For a detailed presentation on Windows Phone 7, watch the Windows Phone 7 Series Hands on Demo at the Channel 9 web site.

Windows Phone 7 presents web services integration in six different hubs. According to Microsoft, the hubs align with how people use their mobile phone. Each hub has its own tile on the Windows Phone 7 start screen, so for example, when you tap the People tile, you then see the pictures of the people you interact with the most using the phone. Think of it as a constantly updating last called list, that includes text messages, emails, or status updates. You then slide your finger left or right in the interface for more details in each hub. Users can pin any item to the start screen to create a new tile, allowing you to put items on the start screen you want to quickly use.

Here is a summary of the hubs:

People: As I described above, here is where you go for the tasks associated with the people you most interact with on the phone. A person’s picture can come from social networks and will change when that person changes their picture.

Pictures: Start here to see any pictures that you have on the phone, which are presented in albums. You can synchronize pictures with the Zune desktop software. You can also display albums of online pictures in this hub, including albums that your friends share online.

Office: This hub features the Mobile Office applications that have been part of Windows Mobile since the beginning. Microsoft did not provide much detail about this hub beyond showing OneNote, and I think it will be interesting to see how this hub can be extended for enterprise use.

Music & Video: This hub is what makes Windows Phone 7 a Zune. All of the music and video features on Zune today are available in this hub. However, one big additional feature is the integration of web services like Pandora. For example, you can pin a favorite Pandora channel in this hub.

Games: The games hub provides the first integration of XBox Live on a mobile phone. You will be able to see gamer’s avatars, achievements, and profile. Invites to participate in certain online games are also presented in this hub. Microsoft did not provide any details about specific games that might be playable on the phone through this hub.

Marketplace: This hub was not covered during the announcement but is noted in Microsoft’s press release. As you would expect, this is where you will go to find and install “certified” applications for Windows Phone. Microsoft did not provide any detail for how applications appear or run on the device, nor did they provide any information about whether the Marketplace will be the only way to install applications. More details will be provided to developers at the Microsoft Mix conference in March.