updated 05:50 pm EST, Sat February 6, 2010
Windows Phone 7 may be deliberate step backwards
Microsoft may consciously limit Windows Phone 7 in its attempt to compete against Apple, a leak sent out today claims. Echoing some previous reports, a source says WP7 will have a Zune-like interface at many levels but goes on to say this will extend to the underlying framework as well. It would drop multitasking and instead pause apps, using an iPhone-like push notification system to handle new updates.
The revamp would also be less open as a whole than Windows Mobile 6. Hardware makers like HTC would not have the option of modifying the home screen with their own interfaces, such as TouchFLO. Apps would also have to go through a "service based delivery" system such as Windows Marketplace to install, reversing a years-old ability to download apps through the browser or other sources. A broad file system would be dropped in favor of a centralized but simpler storage area.
WP7 would use the Zune HD interface wholesale for media playback but would actually have a significant amount of Xbox Live compatibility. It would not only tap into the social network but would support XNA app programming that would let developers write games using the same code they use for Xbox 360 games, although touch input and resolution would mean having to write different versions. Again, Windows Mobile apps wouldn't be backwards compatible but would have a similar enough code base to port some titles over.
Microsoft's ambitions for the web experience would allegedly be another mixture of steps forward and back. The company is consciously aiming to beat the iPhone 3G in speed and accuracy but isn't yet certain if it would beat the several months old iPhone 3GS. Flash and Silverlight would be limited to the out-of-browser environment even though both should be part of Windows Mobile in the first half of the year.
Hardware would be available in September and should have a fast-track development cycle, according to the source. Since Microsoft would provide the drivers, third parties could not only ship phones faster but would finally have fast, over-the-air updates. Windows Mobile has widely been criticized for a slow update model that requires carriers and hardware makers to approve and implement updates, often leading to updates only arriving several months after Microsoft updated the code.
While much of the information still isn't confirmed, it corroborates previous rumors and hints at an unusual regressive strategy when trying to compete against Android, Apple and other more modern platforms. The design appears targeted at media-heavy phones like some Android devices and the iPhone but would, if true, eliminate some of the key advantages that Microsoft has claimed for Windows Mobile. Android and webOS already have true, simplified multitasking systems and allow users to download apps outside of traditional channels. Apple doesn't yet have such code but is widely expected to show off iPhone OS 4.0 as soon as this spring.