Windows Phone 7

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I suppose I’m a Mac. I have an iPhone, a MacBook and an active iTunes account. Even though I’m not a PC, I do want Windows Phone 7 to be every bit as good as Microsoft claims it will be.

Since the launch of the iPhone, the iOS has really defined what a smartphone UI is. This leaves Apple in a unique position to dictate the evolution of a new class of consumer electronics. Apple does many things well, and those things tend to get refined over time. Like any company, they also tend to ignore or gloss over their weaknesses. Android phones have forced Apple to address various hardware deficiencies by introducing models with desirable features. Thus far, there have been very few challenges to the iOS itself. I suppose multi-tasking would be an obvious exception. But even then, the basic premise of an application centric UI remained unchanged. After all, “There’s an App for that”.

Windows Phone 7 might be just the competition that the iOS needs.

Windows Phone 7 is hub centric, not application centric. This means that the information from various applications can be aggregated and displayed within a single widget in the OS. It should also mean that files from one application are available to any other applications that recognizes the file type. This has the potential to provide a much more integrated user experience. It also has the potential to become a confusing mess. Microsoft will have to behave a lot like Apple if they want to protect this system from sloppy developers. Microsoft will also have to work hard to integrate entire ecosystems of supported applications and services. The social hub will need to support Twitter, Facebook, Mixi, LinkedIn, foursquare and all the other social networking apps. Ignoring just one will leave Microsoft open to a barrage of criticisms that a more app centric UI avoids.

Windows Phone 7 has a very distinct look that might be difficult for Application developers to work with. Apple, for all their nonsense, provides a fairly neutral looking OS that isn’t too hard to design within. Android, on the other hand, has a graphics creation process that is so onerous that most developers just ignore it. This leads to visual inconsistancies that hurt the UI somewhat. Windows Phone 7, with its far more eccentric design would seem to be far more vulnerable to this effect.

It looks as if Windows Phone 7’s UI designers might have chosen form over function a bit too often. I’m not sure that Windows Phone 7 should rely quite so heavily on UI elements that run off the screen. For whatever reason, there seems to be some redundancy in the tiles — a problem for a UI where space is at such a premium. In general the UI seems to waste quite a few pixels on negative space (the area between important elements). As a visual designer I love negative space, it gives a design room to breathe; as a mobile UI designer, I might be a bit more concerned with economy.

Windows Phone 7 must ship with all the capabilities that have become standard in a mobile OS. Things like multi-tasking and exchange integration need to be very well though out and available from day one. They are late to the party with this, so they don’t get to make any excuses.

I really don’t want this UI to fail. I especially don’t want it to fail because of sloppy execution or a lack of features that have become standard. Apple (Google, RIM and etc) need the competition.