Of course, anything Microsoft does-even in areas in which it is playing catch-up-is big news. During recent weeks, developers have gotten a look at Windows Phone 7 running on devices from ASUS, Samsung and LG. Test applications, according to InformationWeek, are coming from a number of sources, including The Associated Press, Electronic Arts and Match.com.
The story was written by Fritz Nelson, who is the editorial director of InformationWeek and the executive producer of TechWeb TV. He says that Microsoft is exerting tighter control than previously over its ecosystem:
Microsoft is leaning, then, toward more of the vertical integration approach that has worked so successfully for Apple (iPhone) and Research In Motion (BlackBerry). The main difference will be that users have more hardware choices.
The story includes a video detailing what the phones will look like, including six "smart design" hubs, covering people, pictures, music and video, games, marketplace and office, the story says.
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MobileCruch's Greg Kumparak was given a Samsung prototype. This long review, after offering a disclaimer that is not a production device, discusses the experience from a number of angles. Kumparak looks at the handset, the user interface, the keyboard, the phone functionality, "the People Hub," the Marketplace, the device's camera and its e-mail capabilities. He concludes that he looks forward to Windows Phone 7 "with a dash of excitement, and a heaping cup of wariness." He ends the piece discussing the huge disadvantages Microsoft is facing.
The reviews generally are positive. In an even longer pre-review, Endgadget says that the OS offers good touch responsiveness and "really, really good" keyboard performance. However, it fails in not offering a Clipboard copy-and-paste feature and lack of support for multitasking. The review discusses contact management; social networking; e-mail, which he said is "solid"; and messaging. It says that Web browsing is good. The review examines camera and photo management; Marketplace; integration with Office; Microsoft Bing Maps, which it says is "really great," though not up to the status of Google Maps on Android; and offers a mixed assessment of search. It examines Zune and Xbox integration. The wrap-up positions Window Phone 7 as a work in progress with a lot of promise from a company that is under a lot of pressure in the mobile sector.
In something of a meta review, the writer of this ZDNet post -- who hasn't gotten a device to review yet -- refers to those that have been published and makes suggestions on what Microsoft should do. The most important point he makes is that Microsoft has to do all of this very quickly: It is far enough behind in the smartphone race that things have to work perfectly when they are released, and features that under different circumstances could be included in an update-such as the Clipboard feature, multitasking support and support for HTML5, Flash or Silverlight in the browser-must be available on day one.
The early reviews generally are good. The reality is, however, that Microsoft needs them to be great.