This has been topic that has been on my mind for a long while which has been covered in great detail over the past few months. Well, it is finally time to jot a few points on a new OS from an already established software maker, Microsoft.

The Windows Mobile Operating system was introduced in the mid to late90s as a response to the Palm OS. Microsoft thought it was time to move into the mobile Personal Digital Space to provide a similar experience as on Windows desktop system. The Compaq iPaq was, in the mid to late 90’s was a rather large, though power packed device bringing the Windows desktop experience on the go. Compaq, was taken over by HP and the iPaq models continued, often with high internal specifications.

Compaq iPaq

Windows Mobile gained momentum rather quickly with more manufacturers making devices running on this OS. Palm, still remained but there was a clear slow down in terms of the devices released by Palm. Sony, which at one point, championed the Palm OS with highly slick multimedia devices such as the NX70 had stopped making devices with the Palm OS and this led to a certain decline in Palm OS devices. Windows Mobile devices continued to proliferate due to the ease of obtaining software licenses and consumers took to the OS as it mirrored their desktop systems.

Windows Mobile’s major selling point was also its weakness. The mobile OS, in its want to replicate a Windows desktop environment, led to a very clunky and power and processor intensive OS. Palm OS devices in direct comparison had a lower spec sheet in comparison to its Windows Mobile counterpart but it had program architecture that was more suited for a mobile environment.

Windows Mobile OS, in my opinion, should not have seen the light of day as it is a clunky OS and with the advent of new, more mobile friendly OSs like the iOS, Android OS ,Symbian OS and  WebOS has made Windows Mobile somewhat dated in its mobile devices implementation.

Microsoft, was obviously aware of the shortcomings of Windows Mobile and have decided to go back to square one and design an OS from the ground up.

The end result: Windows Phone 7

This development of this OS was done openly without much scrutiny. Those familiar with the Microsoft Zune player would be familiar with the User Interface used in the Windows Mobile 7. The Microsoft Zune was launched as Windows’ answer to Apple’s Microsoft. Whilst the Zune is a capable and a feature packed device, it could not match Apple’s established dominance in the mp3/media player market. As a result, the Zune was pretty much relegated to the US marketplace. The development of Windows Phone 7 was thus, an openly quiet affair.

Zune HD player

The UI for Windows Phone 7 is  refreshingly different and looks nothing like its predecessor. The application layout does not follow a grid like pattern as seen in Apple’s iOS or the widget based interface of Google’s Android OS. The interface instead is made up large tiles within which is an application icon. Each tile also carries with it the notification status of the application. For eg. an email icon will tell you how emails there are to be read.

Also present is the integration of Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace( the equivalent of iTunes ) and Microsoft’s X Box Live service. This is certainly a very thoughtful implementation of the existing marketplaces within the Microsoft ecosystem. Microsoft has been patient in exacting this integration and this is certainly commendable.

Windows Mobile, currently at version 6.5, is not upgradable to Windows Phone 7 and marks the end of this OS. Microsoft will be providing support for devices within the enterprise sector running on Windows Mobile 7. However, the support for consumer smartphones will end. Make no mistake, this is a new beginning for Microsoft. Engadget has given an in depth preview of the OS and their post can be read via this link.

Microsoft has issued a series of minimal hardware requirements for devices running on Window Phone 7. These include a capacitive, multitouchable screen with at least four points of touch; accelerometer; 5-megapixel camera; FM radio; and the like. They are not allowing manufacturers to incorporate their own custom UI into the OS. This has certainly been the case for the Android OS as manufacturers like HTC and Samsung have included their own Sense UI and TouchWiz UI into their Android handsets. Microsoft has also chosen a select set of Original Equipment Manufacturers(OEM) to build phones for Windows Phones 7. These include Qualcomm, LG, Samsung, Garmin Asus, HTC, HP, Dell, Sony Ericsson, and Toshiba.

Microsoft has gone the middle way with the regulation of their OS by neither being too closed ( iOS) nor too open ( Android). This is perhaps a good thing as it allows a consistent user experience for prospective Windows Phone 7 users.

Microsoft tends to perform best when there is stiff competition. Windows Phone 7 is a promising refresh and a promises to be a potent contender in the smartphone market.

The smartphone space has gotten more interesting.

At the time of writing, Windows Phone 7 has been officially launched with a set of smartphones running Windows Phone 7. Click on this link to read more.