So... it's was just announced... Windows Phone 7 Series it is... And after the whirlwind of a coming out party. Here are my initial thoughts on the system. And I'm gonna count up how many shots of alcohol I'm gonna take after this. Go watch the coming out video first if you haven't done so yet.
The Zune UI -
It sure looks like something you'll either love or hate with all the cropped title bars and stuff. My main worry is that with this spanking new UI. Backward compatibility with previous apps is damn near IMPOSSIBLE to achieve, in fact if you watch the video webcast (which they say they'll put an archived version up later) They said that they didn't want to splinter the UI experience anymore, ie. HTC's touchflow, Sony's XPanels, Samsung's shitty Omnia menu, etc. etc. Putting backward compatibility for WM apps will end up like putting backward compatibility for when Pocket PC's moved the start menu from the bottom to the top. The other telltale sign that backward compatibility is dead is the catchphrase that appears in the preview video that it's a brand NEW BEGINNING (or something like that)
While losing backward compatibility is a VERY BIG ISSUE, starting fresh with a new system architecture that knows how to deal with programs whose developers didn't take much effort into respecting the rules of the system will be good for the system in the long run. And so I shall drink to all the great Windows Mobile programs which *might* be lost in this transition (more dev info coming during the Mix conference) And hope that future developers can take better charge of their code, less the OS do it for them.
Is there multitasking or not? - This is a big question that was not answered, but just hinted by the preview video. The video poked fun at the fact that other phones *cough* iPhone *cough* let's you do one thing at a time, stare at one chunk of info at a time and no way to interact with it. This is because when you allow multitasking in a device with system constraints like a phone, a program is liable to kill and collapse the device, ie. Opening WAAAAYY too many heavy webpages in your web browsers on your phone. But then... the preview video kept talking about how we'll be able to have Live In Motion with the new Windows Phone 7 Series. So what kind of multitasking support would we as developers will get? Here's my theory, observe the Start screen (ie the new Today screen).
Now... during the webcast, a few things can be observed. The Live Tiles as they are called, were refered to as SUPER ICONS that deliver up to date information relevant to that tile. Tapping on the tile brings you over to the relevant Hub. My theory is that the Tiles are just like the Today screen plugins in Windows Mobile, and these are the ONLY THINGS that actually multitask, so programmers will be encouraged to split their apps into services and UI portions to retrieve data and present them to the user. Of course this model would only apply for task based apps like Messenger, Twitter, etc. etc. Doesn't answer how a new alternative music player would work to play music in the background.
Another interesting thing which I noticed was that, no one mentioned anything about an application launching screen. While this Start Screen sure looks like it could be it, I shudder to think what happens when you've installed enough tiles to make the user have to run a finger marathon to get to what they need. Oh wait... the iPhone already does that!
It's an interesting concept, and I guess I'll know the answer when Mix arrives.
What is the developer experience? - For me and countless other developers out there, this is the question that still remains unanswered, can we still write apps without paying additional licensing fees? can we deploy apps without using marketplace? WHAT do we write apps with? All these questions will have to wait till Mix to be answered. But I have my theories. While using .Net to write apps is practically a no brainer, the main question here is... WHAT DO WE DEVELOPE THE UI WITH? A typical WinForms app would clash HORRIBLY with the new Zune UI, not to mention it'd be crazy to try and implement an animation engine for elements and such. If only Microsoft had some sort of framework for presenting and animating elements through a storyboard, if only Microsoft had some form of runtime that can be used to sandbox applications and yet still provide the flexibility of a rich presentation experience along with the core .Net familiarity to the developers...
Oh wait... there is! Microsoft has both Windows Presentation Framework and Silverlight which can be used as a basis of creating rich animated applications. And the base specification of the device is supposed to be able to support all this now!
I'll drink myself silly if there's no way to write .Net code on a Windows Phone 7 Series, and it just wouldn't make sense for MS to have to make yet another framework for rich applications which doesn't inherit from WPF or Silverlight.
We'll find out at Mix I guess.
There is one thing to note though, with all the talk about games, and Live integration. And the fact that the hardware platform and specifications have been standardized. It's not too hard to picture XNA support to be in Windows Phone 7.
The hardware platform - The Windows Phone 7 Series (Hey.. that grammar is just wrong!) device platform has a standardized specification. So everyone will have a WVGA screen (that's 480x800 I guess, hey.. I think I know what kind of upgrade the iPhone 4G will get!) At least a said high spec'ed process and if I didn't hear correctly... FOUR POINT MULTITOUCH? I personally don't get the idea of multitouch as UI gestures, cause they're usually not intuitive and they generally means you can't do the operation with one hand which is important on a phone. But having 2 point multitouch helped the iPhone gaming industry since you could have a virtual joypad where you could move and press ONE button at a time. But FOUR points? Is that really necessary? Can you actually fit four fingers on a screen and STILL see what you're doing?
The 3 buttons on a Windows Phone 7 device will be Start, Back and Search. while I understand why the first 2 buttons are there, the Search button..... well I guess we'll see how that works out. I guess it's more useful than a call button which only searches for your contacts, but can it guarantee that I can find a person to call as fast as on my Windows Mobile phone right now and not as inefficient as the iPhone dialer?
Right now the virtual keyboard looks like a copy of the iPhone one, and I didn't see it in use enough to notice if it shares the same deficiencies (ie. letter's don't change to indicate CASING state). There're more screen pixels, why can't a better keyboard be made?
I'm glad that Microsoft isn't making the phone, since if Microsoft IS making the phone it'll most likely mean WE'LL NEVER GET IT IN MALAYSIA, since that'll mean they need to have an entire support for the device over here. They can't even do that for a game console or music player, how could they do it for a phone even if the target market is larger? I'll drink to that.
The integration with the Zune software is nice and everything, but if it means that I can't use my phone immediately upon purchase and have to activate it using the Zune software ala the iPod/iPhone, that would NOT be nice!
Ok... let's wait for Mix and see what else I can rant on, and see wheter I'm right about certain things.