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Thursday, February 18, 2010

10 Hot Questions About Windows Phone 7, Answered

Sascha Segan

After years of watching its Windows Mobile operating system languish behind sexier products from archrivals Apple, Google, and Palm, Microsoft launched the Windows Phone 7 platform Monday morning. Why is it important? Does it live up to the rumors? And more to the point, what can you expect? Here are the top ten questions about the new Windows Phone 7 OS, and their answers.

1. What is Windows Phone 7? It's Microsoft's new mobile-phone operating system. A total break from the past, it focuses your smartphone life around "hubs" rather than apps – the people you talk to, the pictures they post, or the games you like to play.

2. Is it a "Zune Phone?" No, but Zune is one of the built-in "hubs." So is XBox Live. So is Bing.

3. What will the phones look like? There will be many form factors, but they all have to have capacitive, 800-by-480 or greater touch screens and have three buttons at the bottom: Home, Back and Search. They will all have four-point multi-touch displays, compasses and accelerometers. You'll see phones with and without sliding QWERTY keyboards, but no BlackBerry-style candybars or non-touch phones.

4. What carriers will they run on? All four major U.S. carriers, but AT&T will get the first crack with an as-yet unannounced phone.

5. How's the Office and e-mail support? Looking great. WP7 - that's the new official acronym - supports OneNote, Office, multiple Exchange accounts and SharePoint. But the interface is definitely more about communicating and having fun than about doing spreadsheets.

6. Can it sync with a Mac? Not initially. WP7 will require the Zune software to sync, and there's no Mac Zune software. Look for third parties like Mark/Space to fill in the gaps with a syncing solution.

7. Will it run old Windows Mobile apps? I don't think so. The interfaces are very different. Microsoft promised we'd find out more at their MIX developers' conference in mid-March.

8. Does it have multi-tasking? We can't tell, but Microsoft said you'd be able to "play music in the background".

9. How about Adobe Flash? Not at launch, but Steve Ballmer himself said that he doesn't have anything against it.

10. When's it coming? For the holidays, 2010.