Selasa, 28 Juni 2011

Digging into Windows Phone 7 OS

The core of Windows Phone 7 is the home screen and its symmetrical, Mondrian-style arrangement of large square tiles, each of which provides entry into a basic task such as email, web browsing, games, text messaging, calendars, and more. These tiles are plainly labeled and are “live,” meaning that the OS constantly updates them with new alerts in real time.

Beneath this striking design, however, lies a number of step-saving effi ciencies. Across the board, the WinPhone interface consistently removes one to two steps from almost every single smartphone task we perform on a day-to-day basis. The only real exception to this is the ability to instantly read news, weather, and social updates via the desktop widgets that Android permits.

As a general rule, the level of customization consistently disappointed us. You can customize the placement of individual tiles on the Start screen—an extended press on an icon allows you to drag it around the home screen and place it wherever you’d like. You can also “pin” just about anything—applications, websites, photos, games, people, podcasts, and more—to the home screen in the same manner. Aft er just under a week of usage, we wanted to adjust the color and/or size of individual tiles. We wanted to leave a row of tiles blank in order to group our applications. We want to change font sizes. None of this is currently possible.

Unrealistically, we expected that because Exchange and Outlook are Microsoft products, Outlook in Windows Phone 7 would function in some kind of special manner. We were misguided. Performance around message delivery and syncing is identical to Android and the iPhone. Critics and users have groaned about the lack of a unifi ed inbox that lumps all of our emails together. Our take: It’s a nicety, but not a necessity. These days, most of us use separate inboxes to refl ect our various personas—worker bee, family man, pervert—so the separation makes sense. SMS texting utilizes the now-standard threaded approach, with each SMS conversation housed in a separate window.

We were pleasantly surprised by the high level of functionality the built-in (and free!)mobile Microsoft Offi ce suite allows. Most of the basic formatting and font options are here. If you’re a PowerPoint maestro, be warned: You can create and edit Word and Excel documents, but you can only edit pre-existing PPT decks. We were surprised to discover that you can only save your documents locally or on a Sharepoint server, and not to Microsoft ’s cloudbased SkyDrive service. (You can automatically save your photos to SkyDrive, however.)

Given the prevalence of touch-screen smartphones, the quality of WinPhone’s virtual
keyboard is important. We confess to feeling initially disappointed. In comparison to the competition, it feels too small and the keys are too crowded, particularly in landscape mode. We were pleased to discover that the virtual keyboard’s adaptive traits were top-notch. It constantly adapted to and corrected the errors caused by our clumsy, meaty thumbs.

One signifi cant change is the way the OS treats your friends and social networks. Instead of shunting your social life into a series of applications, Microsoft has created a dedicated channel—People—that allows you to keep track of all your real and faux friends’ posts, status updates, and more. This aggregated view also extends to the Photos category of the OS—here you can see all of your friends’ most recent photo posts.

The integrated Zune support is a beautiful thing; it essentially means that every
WinPhone is also a Zune HD. You can download and stream the entire Zune catalog of
music, podcasts, and videos. The only exception to this rule is that, for some reason, you can’t stream or download Zune music channels. The Zune PC soft ware functions as a sync client for WinPhone devices in the same manner that iTunes does for iPhones. Plugging your device into your PC initiates an automatic two-way sync (if you prefer), although you can also set up your phone to sync with your home PC via the wireless network if you prefer.

Application support is clearly Windows Phone’s biggest weakness. At launch, some hyperbasic categories such as instant messaging, Dropbox, and Google Voice weren’t available. That’s a big concern. It’s probably just a matter of time before we see thousands of apps filling Windows Phone 7’s marketplace. But if you’re looking for apps right now, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

Days aft er the launch, one of Maximum PC’s Facebook fans, I Jedi, summed things up with a key question about Windows Phone 7: What is Microsoft bringing to the table that will encourage adoption of its platform? It’s a fair question. The user interface design is so strikingly different that everyone wants to touch it. That’s a great start. But smartphone users are going to need more from WinPhones. More apps, more features, more functionality. More.

We confess to being intrigued and enamored by Windows Phone 7 as much for what it
does well now as for what it might accomplish in the future. In 12 months’ time, we envision a mobile OS with built-in remote connectivity to our desktop, our media server, and our home network. We envision a massive games library, with deep hooks to our Windows and Xbox games. We see built-in file sharing via SkyDrive. And yes, we see cut and paste.

The 12–18 month smartphone-upgrade cycle we all live by means that Microsoft has definitely inserted itself into the smartphone conversation. We’ll see what happens next.

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