Microsoft officials today described how upcoming Windows Phone 7 smartphones will perform within a network of Windows 7 PCs and Xbox gaming consoles through a new Windows Live cloud platform to make the mobile experience easier and more powerful for workers and consumers.
"We're back, and we're back with something very different and very innovative," with Windows Phone 7 and Windows Live, said Andy Lees, senior vice president of mobile communications at Microsoft. He spoke at the software maker's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, which was also broadcast live over the web.
Lees said Microsoft was committed to having WP7 in devices shipping by the year end holidays. He also promised developers that applications that they write will work with "100% consistency" across a uniform screen size and with features in devices coming from HTC, Samsung, LG and Dell. The devices will also be available in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish at launch. The consistency comment was a clear attempt to resonate with developers who have raised concerns about various hardware dimensions and features in Android and other smartphones.
Lees tried to use Windows Live to distinguish Microsoft, which recognises that sales of smartphones by various OS and hardware makers will double in the next four years. "It is the first time the PC, phone, cloud and console are all working in harmony," Lees said. He listed various applications that will work in an integrated fashion, including Office, Sharepoint, its Zune media player software, its Bing search engine as well as Facebook and other social networks.
Microsoft will launch the Windows Live platform alongside WP7, giving users of phones, PCs and consoles access to email, calendars, pictures, services and the Bing search engine, the company announced today. More details were revealed in a Windows phone blog.
For the first time, Microsoft also said it will offer 25GB of free cloud storage within the Windows Live platform for accessing information shared between the web and other devices. The storage service, called SkyDrive, will also host the Find My Phone Service, for finding and erasing data on a missing phone from a PC. Microsoft has posted a SkyDrive link with separate functions for access to photos and for office documents.
A spokeswoman said the Windows Live platform is different from the Studio cloud platform, which was developed by Microsoft for the recently cancelled Kin phones. Studio was focused on sharing photos taken with a Kin phone and making the photos accessible from the Silverlight application on a PC.
Lees seemed to borrow a phrase from Apple's description of the iPad as a "magical" device when he concluded his remarks by saying that Microsoft will deliver "magical, transformative experiences for consumers ... This will be our best holiday ever," Lees said.
Lees made that final comment after an Xbox 360 demo that showed how hand and arm motions will be used to interact with video games. Xbox games will also be playable from WP7 phones or PCs, officials said, with the ability to call up an Xbox gaming avatar on a WP7 phone.
Earlier, Lees tried to assure developers and partners in the audience that WP7 will be "for business and consumer, and it's a great opportunity for you... if you develop applications and games and a line of business applications."
In addition to integration with the Xbox, some of the demos showed how a WP7 working prototype would connect to the cloud to buy an MP3 song found on the web with one click, then play it through Zune. When the phone is stored in a cradle, it will also synchronise wirelessly with a Windows 7 PC, officials said.
WP7 works with the concept of tiles within hubs, which are organised into groups, such as a hub for people, a hub for music and video, another for games, another for applications and even a hub for office information.
In another demo, Microsoft demonstrator Augusto Valdez showed how a PowerPoint presentation could be received wirelessly to the WP7 prototype, then edited on the device, with the information stored in the cloud.
In another demonstration, Valdez received a meeting suggestion for a certain day, which was presented as a conflict to his plans to attend an event. With one click, his calendar was launched to determine what the conflict was, then from that window, he typed out a message to his colleague saying he could not go to the meeting, without having to launch Messenger or the calendar separately.