Nokia's great Windows Phone hope: Beauty without brawn

The poor fit of Microsoft's 'Mango' OS to business needs is no surprise, but the Lumia 900 flagship device's weak hardware is

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Social networking. Windows Phone's People app provides a convenient location to monitor your social feeds -- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others -- and engage in any conversations; use the Me tile to initiate a message to all your networks simultaneously. The app is not as full-featured as the social networking services' own apps, so you still need to use them for more sophisticated actions, including sending a direct message. A bizarre implementation issue on Windows Phone is that if you install the separate Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn apps, you have to sign in separately -- the sign-in you provided for the People app isn't shared with the social networking apps themselves (as with iOS 5's Twitter sign-in).

These social networking capabilities are where "Mango" shines brightest, and they represent the most compelling reason to consider a Lumia 900.

Applications
If running applications is your thing, get an iPhone. Nothing else comes close in terms of rich application options that in some cases can do much of what a computer can do. Windows Phone 7.5 is more suited for lightweight widgets.

Apps. Windows Phone's big app is Office, a collection of rudimentary touchup tools using the Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote labels. Word is barely more capable than a typical note-taking app, and PowerPoint only lets you edit text, not adjust graphics -- and slide creation is limited to textual displays. Excel can't edit cell contents, so it's good only for viewing and searching spreadsheets. Windows Phone 7.5 comes with a SharePoint client, but it's hard to imagine, given the OS's lack of security, that any significant business would let users into such corporate assets through a Windows Phone. OneNote -- Microsoft's cloud-synced note-taking app -- is a basic app even on a PC, so its "Mango" version doesn't feel as compromised as the rest of the Office suite.

The truth is, you can do more with Google Docs than Office on Windows Phone 7 -- a sad comment, considering how poorly Google Docs works on mobile clients, even Google's own Android OS.

Windows Phone has no way to present PowerPoint or other slide presentations to a projector or TV, as iOS easily does on an iPhone via a cable or over the air through an Apple TV -- another reason not to consider a "Mango" device for business use.

The Windows Phone Marketplace has mainly lightweight, data-feed-oriented widgets like stock tickers, weather checkers, and bill reminders. Widgets are the perfect fit for the Windows Phone tile metaphor, where the app "icons" are usually live tiles that can show status, such as current stock price or current weather. Opening a tile shows more of the data feed, but rarely lets you manipulate it in any deep way.

But even nonfeed apps tend to be more simplistic on Windows Phone; a survey of newsreader apps showed they contained less information generally than their Android and iOS counterparts. An exception is the USA Today app; despite Windows Phone 7's markedly different presentation style, the USA Today app proves an information app doesn't have to compromise on depth. (And now that Gannett has ruined USA Today on the iPhone with its impossible-to-read new design, the Windows Phone version really stands out in a good way.)

When it comes to games, "Mango" has a good selection, including modern standbys such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja. Otherwise, there are relatively few apps as yet in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace is curated, like Apple's App Store, so it's much less likely to hold malware such as the phishing apps that plague the Android Market.

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