Microsoft Unveils Windows Mobile 7 with New Interface, Hubs, & Bing

Microsoft unveiled Windows 7 Mobile in Barcelona, Spain Monday, at the Mobile World Conference, a major global telecom industry event. The new smartphone operating system attempts to reposition Windows Mobile. It brings both Zune and Xbox Live content to Windows Mobile devices, adds support for Bing searches, and the company has introduced a new "Hubs" concept for organizing and using mobile content and services.

The company is calling the platform of phones that use the new OS the Windows Phone 7 Series. Because Microsoft openly licenses Windows Mobile to all comers, phones using the OS will come in a variety of forms, including touchscreen-only devices, devices with flip out keyboards, devices with Qwerty keyboards laid out similarly to a BlackBerry, etc.

Each device, however, will have a dedicated hardware button for launching Bing, in addition to any other buttons, for instant access to the #3 search engine. This is included in the stricter-than-before hardware reference requirements required by the company in a nod to the more tightly integrated hardware and software model that has worked so well for Apple's iPhone platform.

Windows Mobile 7 StartscreenWindows Mobile 7 devices will also have a Start screen with configurable "tiles," as seen in the image to the left. Those tiles then display dynamically updated information, which Microsoft said, "breaks the mold of static icons that serve as an intermediate step on the way to an application."

In the screen shot provided by the company, the Phone tile shows two calls or messages, and the People tile shows the images of people that have posted to FaceBook. Similarly, the Text tile shows three messages waiting, while the user has 20 e-mails in his Outlook inbox. The Pictures tile shows recent images posted by friends.

Separately from the tiles on the Start screen, Microsoft is introducing a "Hubs" concept for further content, services, and information management. The company showed six Hubs, including People, Pictures, Games, Music + Video, Marketplace (for downloading apps), and Office, all of which are intended to allow users to better manage their smartphones.

Xbox Live integration with the devices will allow users to play some Xbox Live games, as well as to access player information (including avatars) for other players.

Microsoft has posted videos of Steve Ballmer's introduction of the new OS, as well as screenshots and other images from the presentation on its Web site.

Microsoft said that phones will begin appearing with the new operating system by the end of 2010, in time for holiday shopping.