Windows Phone is a mobile operating system developed by Microsoft.
Unlike its predecessor, Windows Mobile platform, Windows Phone is primarily aimed at the consumer market rather than the enterprise market (Windows Phone and Windows Mobile platform are incompatible with each other). Windows Phone was launched in the second half of 2010, with a release in Asia following in early 2011. With Windows Phone, Microsoft created a new user interface, featuring its design language called Metro. Additionally, the software is integrated with third party services and Microsoft services, and sets minimum requirements for the hardware on which it runs.
Work on a major Windows Mobile update may have begun as early as 2004 under the codename "Photon", but work moved slowly and the project was ultimately cancelled. In 2008, Microsoft reorganized the Windows Mobile group and started work on a new mobile operating system. The product was to be released in 2009 as Windows Phone, but several delays prompted Microsoft to develop Windows Mobile 6.5 as an interim release.
Windows Phone was developed quickly. One consequence of this is that Windows Mobile applications do not run on it. Larry Lieberman, senior product manager for Microsoft's Mobile Developer Experience, told eWeek: "If we'd had more time and resources, we may have been able to do something in terms of backward compatibility." Lieberman said that Microsoft was attempting to look at the mobile phone market in a new way, with the end user in mind as well as the enterprise network. Terry Myerson, corporate VP of Windows Phone engineering, said, "With the move to capacitive touch screens, away from the stylus, and the moves to some of the hardware choices we made for the Windows Phone 7 experience, we had to break application compatibility with Windows Mobile 6.5."
The name 'Windows Phone' is used because Microsoft's old mobile OS called 'Windows Mobile' has been replaced by an all new mobile operating system. Before the official announcement of 'Windows Phone 7', Microsoft began to refer to devices running Windows Mobile as "Windows Phones". Microsoft at first announced its new platform as "Windows Phone 7 Series" which initially came under criticism as being too wordy and difficult to say casually. Responding to this, on April 2, 2010 Microsoft announced that the "Series" would be dropped from the name, leaving the platform named Windows Phone 7. The official statement on the matter was:
"Customers want a simpler way to say and use the name consistently. The important thing is keeping the focus on the Windows Phone brand, which we introduced in October and will continue investing in through Windows Phone 7 and beyond."
Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone on February 15, 2010, at Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona and revealed additional details at MIX 2010 on March 15, 2010. The final SDK was made available on September 16, 2010. HP later decided not to build devices for Windows Phone, citing that it wanted to focus on devices for its newly purchased webOS.
Windows Phone initially supported twenty-five languages, with applications being available through Windows Phone Marketplace in 35 countries and regions.
Windows Phone features a new user interface, based upon Microsoft's Windows Phone design system, codenamed Metro. The home screen, called the "Start screen", is made up of "Live Tiles". Tiles are links to applications, features, functions and individual items (such as contacts, web pages, applications or media items). Users can add, rearrange, or remove Tiles. Tiles are dynamic and update in real time, for example, the tile for an email account would display the number of unread messages or a Tile could display a live update of the weather.
Several features of Windows Phone are organized into "hubs", which combine local and online content via Windows Phone's integration with popular social networks such as Facebook, Windows Live, and Twitter. For example, the Pictures hub shows photos captured with the device's camera and the user's Facebook photo albums, and the People hub shows contacts aggregated from multiple sources including Windows Live, Facebook, and Gmail. From the Hub, users can directly comment and 'like' on social network updates. The other built-in hubs are Music and Video (which integrates with Zune), Games (which integrates with Xbox Live), Windows Phone Marketplace, and Microsoft Office.
Windows Phone uses multi-touch technology. The default Windows Phone user interface has a dark theme that prolongs battery life on OLED screens as fully black pixels don't emit light. The user may choose a light theme instead, and can also choose from several accent colors. User interface elements such as tiles are shown in the user's chosen accent color. Third-party applications can be automatically themed with these colors.
Users input text by using an on-screen virtual keyboard, which has a dedicated key for inserting emoticons, and features spell checking and word prediction. App developers (both inhouse and ISV) may specify different versions of the virtual keyboard in order to limit users to certain character sets, such as numeric characters alone. Users may change a word after it has been typed by tapping the word, which will invoke a list of similar words. Pressing and holding certain keys will reveal similar characters. The keys are somewhat larger and spaced farther apart when in landscape mode. Phones may also be made with a hardware keyboard for text input.
Windows Phone combines messaging through "threads". Threads allow the Windows Phone user to engage with their contacts through Windows Live Messenger and Facebook Chat as well as traditional text messages. Text message can also be composed through voice recognition. Voice recognition allows speech to be converted to text message and also allows text message to be converted to speech which can be read aloud.
Windows Phone 7.5 features a version of Internet Explorer Mobile with a rendering engine that is based on Internet Explorer 9.
Internet Explorer on Windows Phone allows the user to maintain a list of favorite web pages and tiles linking to web pages on the Start screen. The browser supports up to six tabs, which can all load in parallel. Other features include multi-touch gestures, a streamlined UI, smooth zoom in/out animations, the ability to save pictures that are on web pages, share web pages via email, and support for inline search which allows the user to search for a word or phrase in a web page by typing it. Microsoft has announced plans to regularly update the Windows Phone web browser and its layout engine independently from the Windows Phone Update system.
In a demo, Microsoft said that users will be able to stream YouTube videos from the browser. Clicking on a video from the mobile YouTube website will launch the video in a standalone app and will also add the YouTube video to the Music + Video Hub.
Contacts are organized via the "People hub". Contacts can be manually entered into contacts or imported from Facebook, Windows Live Contacts, Twitter, and LinkedIn. A "What's New" section show news feed and a "Pictures" section show pictures from those social networks made by the contacts. A "Me" section show the phone user's own social networks status and wall, allow the user to update his status, and check-in to Bing and Facebook Places. Contacts can be added to the home screen by pinning them to the start. The contact's "Live Tile" displays his social network status and profile picture on the homescreen and the contact's hub displays his Facebook wall as well as all of the rest of his contact information and information from his other social networks.
If a contact has information stored on multiple networks, users can link the two separate contact accounts, allowing the information to be viewed and accessed from a single card. As of Windows Phone 7.5, contacts can also be sorted into "Groups". Here, information from each of the contacts is combined into a single page which can be accessed directly from the Hub or pinned to the Start screen.
Windows Phone supports Hotmail, Exchange, Yahoo! Mail, and Gmail natively and supports many other services via the POP and IMAP protocols. For the native account types, contacts and calendars may be synced as well. Users can also search through their email by searching in the subject, body, senders, and receivers. Emails are shown in threading view and multiple email inboxes can be combined or kept separate.
Zune for Windows Phone is a built-in application providing entertainment and synchronization capabilities between PC and Windows Phone. The Windows Phone multimedia experience is divided into two distinct hubs, the "Music + Videos" hub and the "Pictures" hub, both of which are similar in appearance and functionality to that of the Zune HD.
The "Music + Videos hub" allows the user to access music, videos, and podcasts stored on the device, and links directly to the Windows Phone Marketplace to buy music, or rent it with the Zune Pass subscription service. When browsing the music by a particular artist, users are able to view artist biographies and photos, provided by the Zune Software. This hub integrates with many apps that provide video and music service, including, but not limited to, iHeartRadio, Youtube, and Vevo. This hub also includes Smart DJ which compiles a playlist of songs stored on the phone similar to the song or artist selected.
The "Pictures hub" displays the user's Facebook and Windows Live photo albums, as well as photos taken with the phone's built-in camera. Users can also upload photos to social networks, comment on others photos, and tag photos on social networks directly from the Pictures hub. Multi-touch gestures permit zooming in and out of photos.
According to Brandon Miniman's test review for pocketnow.com, he stated "if Zune can play it, your Windows Phone 7 device can play it" - this refers to the supported playback of files. The audio file formats, supported, include WAV, MP3, WMA, AMR, AAC/MP4/M4A/M4B and 3GP/3G2 as standards. The video file formats, supported, include WMV, AVI, MP4/M4V, 3GP/3G2 and MOV (QuickTime) standards. These supported audio and video formats would be dependent on the codecs contained inside them. It has also been previously reported that the DivX and Xvid codecs within AVI are also playable on the system. Unlike the previous Windows Mobile operating system, there are currently no third-party applications for handling other video formats. The image file formats that are supported include JPG/JPEG, PNG, GIF, TIF and Bitmap (BMP).
Custom ringtones were added with Mango. Ringtones must be under 1MB, less than 40 seconds long and the genre marked as Ringtone to appear on the phone, and are either created on the computer or downloaded through apps. Custom ringtones cannot be used for text messages, IMs or emails.
Xbox Live on Windows Phone provides some Xbox 360 features on Windows Phone devices by displaying the user's avatar in a 3D fashion. Via "Games hub", the users are able to interact with the avatar, view gamerscore and leaderboards, message Xbox Live friends, and Spotlight. Multiplayer (turn-based) gaming with live multiplayer are also released. Microsoft has unveiled more than 50 premium Windows Phone Games titles at Gamescom that makes use of Xbox Live on mobile. Xbox Live on Windows Phone currently doesn't offer real-time multiplayer games, but will be added in the future. Some key features of Xbox Live on Windows Phone include ability to be signed in simultaneously on the console and phone, send and receive messages between Console and Phone, unlock unique gamer points only available by purchasing the gaming title on the phone, etc.
Microsoft's hardware requirements stipulate that every Windows Phone must have a dedicated Search button on the front of the device that performs different actions. Pressing the search button while an application is open will allow users to search within applications that take advantage of this feature; for example, pressing Search in the People hub will let the users search their contact list for specific people. This has been changed in Windows Phone 7.5 however - as the search button is reserved for Bing - so applications that previously used this feature (such as the Marketplace) now include soft search buttons.
In other cases, pressing the Search button will allow the user to perform a search of web sites, news, and map locations using the Bing application.
Windows Phone also has a voice recognition function, powered by TellMe, which allows the user to perform a Bing search, call contacts or launch applications by speaking. This can be activated by pressing and holding the phone's Start button.
Bing is the default search engine on Windows Phone handsets due to its deep integration of functions into the OS (which also include the utilization of its map service for location-based searches and queries). However, Microsoft has stated that other search engine applications can be used.
Aside from location-based searches, Bing Maps also provide turn-by-turn navigation service to Windows Phone user and Local Scout shows interest points such as attractions and restaurants in the nearby area.
The "Office hub" organizes all Microsoft Office apps and documents. Microsoft Office Mobile provides interoperability between Windows Phone and the desktop version of Microsoft Office. Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile, OneNote Mobile, and SharePoint Workspace Mobile allow most Microsoft Office file formats to be viewed and edited directly on a Windows Phone device.
Microsoft Office Mobile
Microsoft Office files from SkyDrive and Office 365, as well as files stored locally on the phone, can be accessed through the Office Hub. Office files are sorted by tiles: Word documents (blue tile), Excel spreadsheets (green tile), PowerPoint presentations (red tile), and OneNote documents (purple tile).
In Windows Phone 7, multitasking is limited to bundled apps. Starting with Windows Phone 7.5, a card-based task switcher can be accessed by pressing and holding the back button. The screenshot of last five open app are shown as cards. Apps can be kept running even when out of view through "Live Agents". In other cases, apps are suspended and can be quickly resumed.
Zune Software manages the contents on Windows Phone devices and Windows Phone can wirelessly sync with Zune Software. In addition to accessing on the Windows Phone devices, Zune software can also access the Zune Marketplace to purchase music, videos, and all apps for Windows Phone. While music and videos are both stored locally on the PC and on the phone, apps are only stored on the phone even if purchased from the Zune Software. Zune Software can also be used to update all Windows Phone devices. Although Zune Software is unavailable on Mac OS X operating system, Microsoft has released Windows Phone Connector which allow Windows Phone devices to sync with iTunes for Mac and iPhoto.
You can find out more about Windows Phone and its history here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Phone.