Microsoft revealed this week at its Mix 10 conference for Microsoft-oriented web developers that its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 mobile OS will not include a clipboard capability for copy-and-paste operations - at least not in the first version.
"Windows Phone 7 Series will not initially offer copy-and-paste; instead, we try to solve the most common uses for copy-and-paste via single-tap action," says Casey McGee, a senior marketing manager in Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business group. "For example, people often want to take an address and view it on a map, highlight a term in the browser, and do a search or copy a phone number to make a call. Instead of the user manually doing a copy and paste in these scenarios, we recognise those situations automatically and make them happen with just one touch. In our early testing, people have been pleased with this approach, but we’re always listening to feedback and will continue to improve our feature set over time based on what we hear."
Casey also notes that developers are free to implement copy-and-paste in their own applications. Reached on his mobile phone, whose battery was running low, Casey did not respond to the implications of lack of OS-level copy and paste on planned Windows Phone applications such as Microsoft Office, but the fact that applications can implement their own local clipboard may take care of that issue, at least within each app.
Microsoft's contextual-tap approach is similar to the Data Detectors technology that Apple has had some time in Mac OS X, which lets applications rely on an OS-level service to detect common text patterns such as phone numbers and addresses, then automatically highlight them so if clicked or tapped a contextual menu appears with options, such as Add to Address Book or Display on Map.
The iPhone has a similar technology, but that didn't satisfy iPhone users. The first two versions of the iPhone OS lacked OS-level copy-and-paste, much to users' consternation. (Individual apps could implement their own clipboards, resulting in different interface approaches across applications.)
The iPhone OS 3.0 added copy-and-paste at the OS level when it was released in July 2009, allowing copying (or cutting) and pasting across applications, not just within them. That way, users could transfer information such as the name of a person's assistant from, say, an email to an address book entry, even if it wasn't text that the Data Detectors technology was aware of.
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