Microsoft has formally taken the wraps off its new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7.
On Monday, Microsoft and its manufacturer partners showed off the first handsets that will go on sale in the UK using the new mobile operating system: HTC's Mozart, Trophy and HD7 phones; Samsung's Omnia 7; and LG's Optimus 7. Other Windows Phone 7 devices from HTC will include a US only handset the HTC 7 Surround and a productivity-centric, Qwerty-keyboarded handset called the HTC 7 Pro that will go on sale before the end of the year.
Windows Phone 7 is a complete break from Windows Mobile 6.5, its immediate predecessor, and it has no backwards compatibility to support apps built on Windows Mobile. It is also more consumer-focused, featuring multitouch and strong integration with Microsoft's Xbox Live games service. This sets it apart from rivals such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android.
The Microsoft OS is structured around hubs of applications, which are grouped under categories such as People, Pictures, Games, Music and Video, Marketplace, and Office. Apps are represented onscreen in the form of 'tiles'. Tiles are dynamic widgets that constantly update to show, for example, the number of unread emails in the mail app.
Microsoft has set strict minimum specifications for Windows Phone 7 handsets. These are a dedicated Windows search key, a 1GHz processor, 8GB of onboard storage, an accelerometer with a compass, WVGA (480 by 800 pixels) screen resolution and a five megapixel camera with a flash. The company has also limited the customisation that manufacturers can implement on their devices. For example, it has banned extensively tailored user interface skins such as HTC's Sense, which was used to make Windows Mobile more attractive to the user.
Unlike Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7 does not support tethering or expandable storage, the latter of which is most commonly implemented in smartphones through microSD support. It does not support cut-and-paste, multitasking or for now Adobe's Flash media player.
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