Windows Mobile 7 – Fight against iPhone

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After reading a very interesting article by GSMArena about the leaked documents of Windows Mobile 7, I decided to write up my own thoughts about the new operating system. For those who are not aware of Windows Mobile, it is an operating system that resides on mobile devices like Symbian or Linux for example. Recently announced Google will be releasing their own open source system called Android too, to combat such systems used in mobile devices and the thwart ideas of the “GPhone” (however that can still happen).

Apple has created quite the stir with the iPhone and it has made everyone else shut up and listen. Its not the complete device still as it has missing features, is overpriced and is not the holy grail that people think it is. However no-one can deny that is does pretty much carry the Apple seal of pure quality when it comes to the user interface.

No mobile phone or device before it has had a user friendly interface as it, with beautifully crafted icons, clever use of gestures and touch control making the use of a complex device seem like childs play. It pretty much has made the same mark on the industry as Nintendo has with the Nintendo Wii and DS, using touch screen and gestures (via motion sensors) as the main control scheme. Now that the dust has settled, Microsoft will be replying back with their answer.

Windows mobile 7 will rely heavily on gestures be it via touch or motion it seems from the leaked documents, much like the iPhone. It also seems to borrow a lot from Sony Ericsson with their “Shake” technology for changing tracks. The interesting bit here is that Microsoft seems to have planned to use the camera to detect movement rather than accelerometers. This means that a camera would have to be constantly on which could easily drain the battery and possible use of such gestures when you want to take a photo – Not to mention how it will detect movement in the dark.

Lets break things down to see what Microsoft would like our mobiles to be powered with in the future though.

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Looking at the first image of this post, you can see that Microsoft has paid attention to the media functions now that Mobile devices are expected and indeed can playback. Pictures, music and video have all been given a revamp but nothing has been slipped in terms of what formats can be viewed just yet. Once viewing say, an image you can use gestures to add functionality for example tilting the mobile slightly clockwise or anti-clockwise to flick through images or “shake” to return to the thumbnails/menu. The same would apply for music listening and viewing and I’m sure Microsoft would like to have an interface similar to CoverFlow as well.

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Also is the inclusion of zoomed elements when using the keyboard, surfing or highlighting as of course if you were to press a key or drag your finger along some text to highlight, your finger will be in the way covering the view so it is a clever addition. It would also make sense for the interface to consist of raster (bitmaps) and vectors for such duties. In fact employing more vector elements for mobile use makes sense because it is more lightweight, cleaner upon different zoom levels and more energy efficient creating a better battery life.

Another is the addition of the handle in the interface, especially for Lists as this controls the scrolling speed instead of having to continuously flick to scroll through. However I think some people would enjoy to repeatedly flick instead just to show off amongst friends. Or they might just enjoy flicking in general.

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Other less interesting things is the method used on how to get the mobile out of standby mode by shaking it. Upon wake-up various transitions can be applied to the mobile for fancy effects. I just hope though that all of this can be turned off to prolong battery life as even without all this visual flair, my Nokia N95 can just about last a day and a half of normal use.

In all this was just an overview of what you can do to manipulate the menus and applications via gestures with Windows Mobile 7. The funny thing is you can get all of this functionality already on the Nokia N95 with a program called “Nokmote” which emulates features found in the new Sony Ericsson Mobiles. Not only that, it expands on the feature set greatly and the best part of it is, its free.

Microsoft has a lot to do to convince people to switch to a Windows Mobile capable device, this is a good start using gestures but to heavily rely on them would consume battery power. The interface doesn’t look as slick as the iPhone’s but then it looks inspired by Vista which is a decent base at least. I’m also a bit sceptical upon relying on camera movement for it however I’m sure it will use the power of accelerometers if there is an option to.

No word just yet as to which phones or smartphones will carry this as Android will be getting plenty of hype as will Symbian I’m sure to combat their rivals. As news breaks I’ll keep things updated.

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