As expected, Microsoft has announced the next version of its venerable Windows Mobile platform in Windows Phone 7 Series during Mobile World Congress this morning in a keynote speech given by CEO Steve Ballmer.
The biggest changes found in Windows Phone 7 Series are Xbox LIVE support, Zune integration and social networking.
The venerable Start screen has been replaced with tiles which scroll vertically and can be customized as quick launch icons, links to contacts, or widgets. The look of Windows Phone 7 mirrors the Zune HD user experience closely with the familiar text for menus and content transitions which slide into and out of different views.
The operating system is now heavily focused on social networking, providing integrated contact pages which show status updates from multiple services and allowing access to related content such as photo galleries.
The extent of the Xbox LIVE integration will include games, avatars, and profiles, while the Zune integration is a carbon copy of the standalone device’s features down to the built-in FM radio.
Microsoft is now taking a similar stance as Apple by defining fixed specifications for 7 Series devices and eliminating carrier or partner UI overlays such as Sense or TouchWiz, with the goal being a consistent experience across devices regardless of manufacturer.
Carrier partnerships include AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, TelefÃ³nica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, while hardware partners include Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm.