Windows Phone 7 UI drags down Asus prototype's slickness

Photo of reported in-the-wild device illustrates the challenge of making a device running Windows Phone 7 look good

A newly revealed picture of what appears to be a Windows Phone 7 production prototype from Asus, reportedly snapped in Pakistan and spread via Twitter, is offering techies the same sense of excitement as photos of celebrities wandering the streets or beach sans makeup (or clothing) titillates pop culture enthusiasts. In both cases, observers have a chance to ogle goods that haven't benefitted from touching up, airbrushing, and other enhancements for masking unsightly blemishes. (The original tweet has since been taken down, but a cached version of the message is available.)

The image of the Asus isn't high-resolution, but it provides a decent idea of what a forthcoming Windows Phone 7 device might look like. Unfortunately for the hardware makers, the monotonous blue-box-riddled UI of Microsoft's new-and-not-so-improved mobile platform is clearly an aesthetic drag on even the slickest-looking device.

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The hardware has bits and bobs that will be standard on forthcoming phones. At the bottom left is the Back button, which is self-explanatory. The middle button with the Windows emblem is Menu/Home, also self-explanatory.

The magnifying glass button at the bottom right, as you might expect, is for search, but it might not function as you would expect. The rumors vary. It will certainly perform Internet search via Bing. Will it be capable of searching the contents of your phone for a specific file? Not clear, though one would hope so. According to some dev forums, it may perform search for Microsoft apps -- but not for third-party apps. Who uses non-Microsoft apps anyway, right?

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