[MWC] Steve Balmer was on stage in Barcelona to give an overview of Windows Phone 7 and a preview of a few of the new features that will be released with the next update. The next version will integrate Twitter just like Facebook is tightly integrated today: in the People Hub and in the Picture Gallery where users can directly access their photos stored in Facebook.
Joe Belfiore has demonstrated the new Skydrive capability integrated in the Office app: it allows users to store documents, share folders and collaborate using Microsoft’s cloud service Skydrive directly from the Office application.
We were glad to learn that Microsoft will finally release IE9 support for Windows Phone 7 (which is currently using the IE7 rendering engine), IE9 provides native support of video (without plug-ins), thanks to HTML5, and has graphics hardware acceleration, meaning that many HTML5 canvas operations are done by a graphics processor. Joe Belfiore also showed us a side by side demo to prove the performance superiority of IE9 (for mobile) against the iPhone 4 browser: the picture below was taken during the demo, at the bottom IE9 display a fluid animation of the fishes while at the top, the same animation is (very) slow on the iPhone.
The next cool new feature is Multitasking: this allows background apps to run, and lets users easily switch apps by simply using the Back button to come back to the last application you where in. Pressing and holding the Back button gives access to all the apps that are currently running in a single screen from which you can browse and switch.
Since mobile gaming is the hot topic this year, Microsoft could not resist to innovate in this area by leveraging the success of Kinect: the next Windows Phone 7 update will work as a companion for Kinect. We saw a demo of a multiplayer game where the phone was used to shoot (virtual) balls at your friends.
Steve Balmer gave us an update on the Marketplace: four month after the launch, Windows Phone 7’s app store offers over 8000 applications, 30000 developers have registered, and over a million WP7 developer toolkits have been downloaded to date.
The keynote closed with Stephen Elsop, the CEO of Nokia, who explained how wonderful the recently announced partnership with Microsoft is. This alliance makes sense: Nokia desperately needed help on the software and the user interface side, and Microsoft, facing harsh competition from Android and iOS, needs to expand more rapidly in a number of handsets, so closing a deal with the number one mobile phone vendor in the world (by unit shipped) is not a bad idea. The WP7 user interface is the sexiest mobile interface to date (read my Samsung Focus review), which is something that Nokia could certainly not deliver on its own.