Microsoft has seeded a version of Windows Phone 7 (WP7) that is ready for some hands-on time. Previews have been published earlier today (when the embargo lifted) and by most accounts, it is pretty much what we expected it to be. First, it’s really fast: the only contender to the iPhone 4 for the user interface (UI) responsiveness. The UI is also fresh, finger-friendly and (mostly) well thought-out. Depending on your taste, this could be a complete hit (or a huge flop!), and I personally think that this is a much more interesting interface than Android’s. However, it’s not consumer-tested, yet.
Windows phone 7 is also idiotic in other ways: it won’t support multi-tasking (or even in a limited form, a la iPhone 4), and there’s no… copy/paste. Really? I used to think that Android’s Copy/Paste wasn’t very good, but the solution is certainly not to omit it altogether. Even Windows Mobile 5 had decent copy/paste and multi-tasking capabilities. Last and not least, the name of the OS is certainly not the best ever.
What about the apps? Well, at the moment, we can’t say that developers are banging on the WP7 door… As of late, Microsoft was paying select developers to port their iPhone apps to Windows Phone 7. It’s not a bad tactic when you don’t have the upper-hand in a platform fight. They have to help developers make some money for their work and hopefully, Microsoft can match the iPhone’s most popular apps at launch. At least, the WP7 SDK is superb.
In the end, Windows Phone 7 looks promising, but also not ready to “win” - which is scary at this point in time. Besides its user interface, which again, could be a boom or bust, it doesn’t really have an definite edge against the current market leaders, and the recent Kin failure doesn’t really inspire trust for consumers. And remember, Windows Phone 7 needs all the advantages that it can get because this is not a free software (like Android). Handset makers do have to pay a fee (possibly up to $40 per handset) to license it. Will that be passed onto the consumer? I’m not sure, but I’m waiting anxiously to see what the final version will look like and how it will be priced (probably around $200 to stay competitive).