Sneak peek at Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 looked promising for both productivity and playtime in a preview of the platform loaded on prototype hardware, demonstrated to

The long-awaited revival of Microsoft’s mobile operating system was released to manufacturers Sept. 1 and it won’t be long before the first smartphones using it hit the market. Microsoft enters a competitive smartphone market, hoping to steal market share away from Apple’s iOS, BlackBerry OS, and Google’s open-source Android.

“It’s a from the ground up reworking of Microsoft’s user interface,” says Joey de Villa, developer evangelist at Microsoft Canada. He refers to Microsoft’s previous mobile OS – Windows Mobile 6.5 being the most recent version launched in October 2009, and Windows CE predating that.

“It’s a glance and go design,” he says. “You get all the information you need from a single glance.”

Related Story: Windows Phone 7: Three reasons it’s not just for consumers

Case in point is the locked screen on the device. On a LG developer prototype running Windows Phone 7, the lock screen displays a clock, next calendar items, and current weather forecast. The user doesn’t even need to go to the home screen to access the information.

Developers have been tinkering with a beta version of an application programming interface and a Windows Phone 7 emulator to design some of the first apps that could be available in Marketplace. The full version of the API will be released Sept. 16.

Two Toronto-area developers were on hand with Microsoft to show off what early adopters can expect from the device.  

Barranger Ridler operates his own firm, 4MK Mobile in his spare time from his job as a developer in the utility industry. A big coffee drinker, and partial to the black gold served up hot at Tim Horton’s, Ridler made it his objective to develop an app for Windows Phone 7 that would locate the nearest Tim Horton’s location.

“It took me only about 10 hours to build this,” he says. “If I had to do it again for a similar application, it would be about five hours.”

The Bing Maps mash-up lists the 10 nearest Tim Horton’s locations and displays them on a map. The user can then get directions to a location from their current position, thanks to GPS. It’s a good example of how geo-locational services on the phone could be important for future apps.

“With the push towards open government, I see a lot of opportunities to pull that data in and have it readily available in your pocket,” he says. “The TTC’s open transit data could provide a bus schedule on your phone.”

Ridler will submit his app to the Marketplace when it opens up for business in a couple of weeks time.

If there’s a line-up at Tim Horton’s, Windows Phone 7 users will be able to pass the time by playing games on the device. “You pretty much have an Xbox in your pocket,” de Villa says.

Developers and Ryerson University students Alexey Adamsky and Alex Yakobovich tend to agree. They’ve developed a 3D version of Sudoku for Windows Phone 7. Instead of just one three by three grid, you’re challenged by six such grids in the form of a cube. It forms one giant puzzle.

“Being one of the first developers for Windows Phone 7 gives me a lot of advantages,” Adamsky says. “I’d say Microsoft has the best developing tools.’

Sudoku 3D is a cross-platform game also available to Xbox gamers. Windows Phone 7 will give access to Microsoft’s Xbox Live gaming community as well.

There are 50 games announced by major studios for the platform so far, de Villa says.

Brian Jackson is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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