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Windows Mobile 7: What We Know So Far

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REDMOND, USA РIn recent years, the battle of the smartphone marketshare has been becoming an increasingly  tough nut to crack.  Windows Mobile, the once dominant smartphone operating system is facing extreme competition from the likes of the Apple iPhone OS, Google Android and Blackberry OS.

The iPhone is one device which has taken the world by storm owing to its intuitive user interface and recent updates have introduced support for services such as Microsoft Exchange, which makes it appealing to business users as well. With a diminishing market share, Microsoft is working hard to adopt a strategy to regain its foothold , especially in the enterprise segment.

Microsoft’s smartphone business rebuilding strategy has been the source of several rumours for the past few years. The latest in the stream of rumors include a list of what is reported to be the basic requirements for a Windows Mobile 7 device.

This list of requirements includes a 1GHz Snapdragon processor as standard, a 3.6″ display with WVGA resolution, 8GB of memory, and a 5 megapixel camera. While the list is certainly probable, these specifications would put all Windows Mobile 7 devices as high-end devices.¬†These devices running in the US$600-plus range will place this above the market average. This also signifies that Microsoft will be adopting a two-pronged strategy by keeping devices based on Windows Mobile 6.5.3/6.6 in the line-up and rounding up the bottom end of the market spectrum.

Sources indicate some more startling facts about the upcoming Windows Mobile OS: in unconfirmed reports, the devices will be incapable of side-loading applications as has been possible for years on the platform. This strongly suggests that Microsoft’s application store, Windows Marketplace, will play an even more important role in the future. However. the loss of the ability to side-load applications signifies the loss of an important competitive advantage. It essentially means that all third-party developers will now have to pass Microsoft’s authentication for all applications before they can be sold at the Windows Mobile application store. Windows Marketplace will also receive an upgraded API with support for trial applications.

Another ability which the platform loses is multitasking. When the iPhone was announced with its lack of multitasking, it created a hue and cry, and to date, the iPhone OS does not officially support multitasking, instead opting for push notifications. Sources close to the development team indicate that this is the same strategy that Microsoft aims to follow. Given the current market dynamics, lack of multitasking could blow a death punch to Windows Mobile 7 as it is an essential feature for enterprise users. Along with this is gone the ability to install OEM-specific shells or shell replacement applications including, but not limited, to TouchFLO, Sense UI and even SPB Shell.

Windows Mobile 7 brings with it support for capacitive touchscreens and thereby multi-touch gestures including, but not limited, to pinch-zoom and chiral rotation. We can also expect full Zune and Xbox integration in the next iteration of Microsoft’s smartphone OS. Xbox integration also suggests the possibility of having games linked to one’s Live account. We can expect to see full friend lists, avatars, achievements in the OS. This would put the platfornm at a marketing edge as the Xbox Live brand is already well established.

Industry experts such as Mobile-Review’s Eldar Murtazin have had hands-on time with devices based on Windows Mobile 7 and claim that while the user interface is a marked improvement, being heavily inspired by Zune, Google Android and iPhone, the software is still far from complete. Murtazin found that the device was incapable of running Windows Mobile 6/6.5 apps. Whether this coud be the end of legacy app support is, however, still uncertain. Microsoft declined to comment on the issue. Another point that was noted by Murtazin was that even with an 1850mAh battery, the device he had would barely run for six to seven hours. Any modern smartphone is expected to last for at least one full day of usage, and this clearly means that the OS is still not completely optimized. As claimed by Murtazin and other industry insiders, the software is still feature-incomplete and it would not be wise to expect the device before the end of 2010.

Microsoft plans to showcase the operating system at the upcoming Mobile World Congress at Barcelona, starting next week, where we shall certainly obtain more information. OEMs such as LG have indicated that they will have devices based on the upcoming operating system by September, however, Microsoft refuses to give out a time-frame for the launch of its much-awaited mobile software platform.

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By , International Correspondent on Feb 8th, 2010 GMT +2

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