Windows Phone 7 OS: Rise of the Phoenix

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Part 1: The untapped potential

During the Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona, Microsoft undoubtedly produced one of their best efforts when it comes to mobile computing with the unveiling of Windows Phone 7 Series. I was very impressed by the “Metro UI” concept of “hubs”, “live tiles” and the tight integration with Zune, Xbox Live and social networks. I think Microsoft has a once in a lifetime opportunity to leapfrog their competition in mobile computing with their new OS but in a totally different form factor than it was initially intended for.

I have read how MS was outmaneuvered by Apple when iTunes was introduced and how people dismissed the iPhone. I think the iPad presents a similar challenge, one that Microsoft needs to take head on before it’s too late! Most techies have dismissed the iPad as a bigger iPod touch but they miss the point that as it is designed, it will provide almost if not all the features most non-tech people use a PC outside work. Some people will argue that what is needed is a fully fledged Windows 7 tablet, well, that niche will be filled by products like the HP Slate. The iPad I believe follows the Wii gaming console approach. The Wii was lampooned by hardcore gamers but guess what? It has been more successful than anyone would have imagined because it went after the casual gamers market that far outnumbers the techies. The iPad is geared towards the non-tech crowd.

If Microsoft can expand the Windows Phone 7 series OS to a Slate/Tablet form factor of about 7”to 10” with added features to take advantage of a bigger screen, they will have a winner. Not only are they going to effectively compete with the Apple on the iPad front, they will also be able to fend off Google’s Chrome OS/Android offerings. The “Metro UI” is better than what any of their completion offers in both functionality and aesthetics. I like how Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore reiterated that a phone is not a PC and I think it should be applied to the tablet as well.

More after the break…

Part 2: How it may be used

The “MS Slate” (made up name for illustrative purposes) will be geared to for casual computer use. The users will most likely possess a PC for tasks that require heavy processing. When I come home from work, I don’t want to sit in front of a computer screen to check my email, Facebook, sports scores etc. A slate is ideal just sitting on the couch and accomplishing the aforementioned tasks. Other uses include a media player and a gaming device for kids during long trips, for use on plane, train and bus rides. With handwriting recognition and MS OneNote, it would be an excellent companion for students, writers, artists, researchers and the like. (Here is a great use case scenario for OneNote)

From my experience with my parents and older people, they mainly use the computer to check their email, share pictures, browse the web and play casual games (solitaire anyone!) “Metro UI” fulfils this task with the people hub and email integration perfectly. I can imagine being able to sync TV shows recorded from Windows Media Center, or live TV on a slate with a built-in TV tuner. You could also throw in home automation control pad to the mix. The possibilities are endless!

Part 3: Hardware: Design and specs

When I first saw that the iPad screen had 4:3 aspect ratio, I, like many tech enthusiasts thought it was mistake since everything is moving to 16:9. After much thought, a 4:3 screen makes more sense since the tablet/slate will be used both in landscape or portrait mode. A widescreen is only advantageous when it comes to videos and gaming. Web browsing, eBooks, pictures fare well in a full screen format. A 1280*960 resolution screen would be ideal in this respect (Please note that this is just my opinion and may be technically incorrect). The following is a rough sketch of what I envision it looking like.

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Hardware specs

•1 GHz+ ARM based Cortex-A9 MPCore multicore processor. These include the NVidia Tegra 2, Texas instruments OMAP 4 and Qualcomm 8X72 series processor.

•Two screen sizes. A 7” for people on the go and a 10” for mainly home use.

•1280×960 resolution. 720p HD video capable

•Capacitive multi-touch LED backlit screen. A “Pixel Qi” option would be great for outdoor legibility. I personally think that a screen using “Stantum Technology” resistive multi-touch should be strongly considered. Microsoft should just by this company! Sample video

•2 microUSB 3.0 ports

•SDHC/SDXC slot

•Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, FM Radio receiver/transmitter. All this can be provided by Texas Instrument’s new WiLink 7.0 chip

•1 GB Ram. 32 GB+ Storage

•3.5 mm headphone Jack

•2 Mp+ wide angle webcam integrated mic

•Stereo speakers

•HDMI mini out

•Removable battery (inductive charging back option)

•Accelerometer

•Ambient light sensor

•Digital compass

•Handwriting recognition

•Finger print sensor for easy login and enhanced security

•*Mic in

•*Express card 34 Slot

•*Internal 2.5 Hard drive bay

•*Digital TV tuner (Some phones have them now why not a tablet!)

•*Retractable high gain antenna for the TV, radio and possibly wireless connections

•*3G Capability (GSM and CDMA)

•*Voice command/Speech to text button

The starred items are features I think can be included in a pro version. The three buttons on the front serve a dual purpose
depending on whether the user presses and quickly releases the button or presses and holds.(The dual home button function would be great if it were also implemented on the new Windows Phone 7 Series OS phones. By holding down the home button, a screen with a list of profile panels like “work”, “home”, “school” “automatic” “leisure” etc. appear. These can also be automatically switched on by GPS location like in the
Locus OS concept or additionally be time based. This solves the problem of having an extremely long scrolling Start Screen list.)

Part 4: Software

Windows phone 7 already comes with most of the productivity and multimedia software necessary. Here is a list of more software that I think would be a great addition for the “slate”

•MS office “slate edition” This will basically provide more features than the standard office mobile package. They should be able to be purchased as standalone pieces or in a suite for a discount. The pricing for the standalone pieces would ideally not be more than $19.95

•Photo editing application Windows photo gallery) with layers and transparency capability.

•Video editing application Windows movie maker) please return the timeline feature!

•Book reader Microsoft reader) or a partnership with Amazon which would provide a great competition to the iBook store. Amazon needs to move to an ePub format though to enable compatibility across devices

•Money manager The defunct MS Money) or a partnership with Quicken + mint.com

•Audiobook application integrated into the Zune player

•Windows Home Server/Windows Media Center control & Integration, Home automation

Part 5: Three screens and a cloud

Microsoft’s “three-screens-and-a-cloud” idea is a great concept but I think it needs to be expanded to include Windows Home Server which will function as the nerve center for all the devices in the home for media, data and backup. I also hope that they will add the capability of installing TV tuners, Cable cards and DVB-S tuners directly on WHS So that all the media can be recorded and managed from one central place. The following is a diagram of how I think this would work.


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There are new devices in addition to the “slate” that I’ve added to the diagram that don’t yet exist. These are…

•Microsoft Courier tablet as described in this article from gizmodo.com

•“Windows Media Center client box” based on a stripped down version Windows 7 OS with a WMC front end. This makes it better than an extender because it will be able to play a full version of Adobe Flash an MS Silverlight and can be expanded to include a Blu-ray drive and also act as a media server if Windows home server wasn’t available. “Project Natal” capability for touch less control would be the icing on the cake!

•A custom car stereo running Win CE6/7 that provides both navigation and entertainment and also can sync to the Windows Home Server when the car is parked in the garage.

•Zune HD2 that features everything the new Windows Phone 7 Series OS minus the phone part. It will also have an external speaker and a built-in mic unlike the current one.

Part 6: Marketing

When it comes to marketing Microsoft needs to implement a new marketing strategy. I hate the commercials like this and this that absolutely show nothing about the capabilities and use case scenarios of the phone. Here, the iPhone beats them handily. When it comes to TV ads please just show the different phone features apply to daily life!

It’s a shame when I walk into Wal-Mart’s electronic section and the Zune HD with a dummy faceplate is locked behind a glass case along with other mp3 players while the iPod touch has a fully working display model that a person can touch and actually have a feel of how the device works.

Microsoft needs to step up and have display booths at all the Big box stores with working models of the Zune HD/2, Windows phone 7, “MS Slate” and Window Media Center box. They will be manned by knowledgeable customer representatives ready to answer any pertinent questions. Just as an example, the Zune pass is an awesome deal but how many people know that? Setting up booths in the malls and local audio/video stores should also be considered. People like to see, touch and tryout electronic gadgets before they commit to purchase them. I think this is much more effective than opening Microsoft branded stores because it provides access to the products where the target audience already frequents.

Conclusion

I firmly believe that Windows Phone 7 Series OS provides Microsoft with a great opportunity in the mobile computing space if they can expand it beyond the smartphone sector it was initially designed for. The “MS slate” would succeed where previous tablets failed because it is an OS designed from the ground up to utilize touch as a primary method of input instead of an added afterthought.

The fall of 2010 could be a great time if Microsoft could release a Windows Phone 7 series phone, a Zune HD/2, a “MS Slate”, a “Courier tablet”and a “Windows Media center Box” all synchronized to Windows Home Server and the cloud. This would present a formidable set of devices that will match if not exceed that which Apple with the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad/Apple TV or Google with the Android/Chrome OS have to offer. This is just my dream but I bet there are a lot more people who think like I do.

Disclaimer:

I am just a fan of technology and the article is based on my opinions of what I would like to see happen. I like Microsoft products and this should not be construed as an expert piece in regards to the capability of technologies offered by Apple, Google or even Microsoft for that matter. The trademark names used are reserved copyrights of their respective owners and are used only for description purposes.


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Rush24 loves everything Microsoft and is fascinated by the influence of technology in everyday life.

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