When a competitor has a solid product, another vendor may purposely try to catch the public's attention with a radical, unexpected, but not necessarily better strategy. Microsoft doesn't seem to be playing that game. It has spent a long while watching its competitors and seeing how users access their phones. As a result, Microsoft has tried to build a UI that matches the needs of the user. This new user interface is called Metro, and it's sleek but different.
Once you get past the lock screen on a new device, you come to the loved/hated Start screen. The tiles are large and dull to start, but you can customize them. Even better, they offer more than what we typically see with icons. iPhone and Android icons can display only so much information -- perhaps a number to indicate messages or voicemails. Tiles in Windows Phone 7 can display a lot of different information; it really depends on the app. Some apps will show up just like an icon. Others will give you more capabilities; one example is the Calendar tile, which offers information on your next appointments and so forth.
We all know what an app is, and we all have them on our devices. Maybe you have a Twitter app, a Facebook app, a CNN app, and so on. Essentially you open the app, it goes full screen, and you have a way to perform whatever task and move on to other apps to perform other tasks. Windows Phone 7's hubs are different in that they offer a portal of sorts to other apps.
One key example is the Office hub. From here you can access OneNote, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, as well as connect to your SharePoint information. Along with Office, there are several hubs in Windows Phone 7, including games, Marketplace, Music+Videos, People, and Pictures. There are obviously plenty of built-in apps and even more software being created each day, but the key players have used the developer tools to ensure their apps are ready.
Windows Phone 7 includes integrated voice command. In a world with more hands-off policies for legal and safety reasons, this is a plus. You can open your calendar, do a quick Bing search, and more, all through voice commands. Another cool feature is called "pocket to picture" with which you can snap a shot even if the phone is locked. You simply click the camera button, without having to unlock the device, find the camera app, and so on -- all the little steps that have ruined those once-in-a-lifetime moments you would've otherwise captured on your phone but were too busy fiddling with the OS.
In regard to email, you can connect to Exchange easily through an ActiveSync connection via an Outlook app on the phone. But you can also pull in data from Gmail, Hotmail, and POP/IMAP accounts. You'll also find native support for Google, Yahoo Mail, and Facebook on your phone. On the negative side, you cannot create a universal inbox that aggregates all your email, which Android and the iPhone both support.
Ultimately Windows Phone 7 will succeed because it is literally last to market, meaning Microsoft has had the benefit of seeing all the predecessors' success and failure points and only had to mimic the former while avoiding the latter. Microsoft has the resources to develop an impressive phone OS and is coming out of the gate swinging with this first version. This is one phone I won't wait for the second rendition to purchase. It may be time to leave my Android behind.
This article, "Windows Phone 7 will be a serious game-changer," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in business software and Windows at InfoWorld.com.