Microsoft's unveiling of its latest smartphone platform is set to be a make or break move for the company in the mobile market, but it could also signal a new split in the company's product line between consumer and business, with Windows Mobile remaining as its enterprise platform.
The system has a revamped user interface reminiscent of the company's Zune media players, and combines the Zune music service, Xbox Live gaming service and close integration with social networks.
These features all show a greater focus on the consumer, but the radical changes in Windows Phone 7 Series also raise questions about compatibility between generations of Microsoft's mobile platform, questions that Microsoft is deferring until its MIX developer conference in March.
"Windows Phone 7 Series is a lot more consumer-centric, but we will still make sure there is a good story for business," said Oded Ran, head of consumer marketing for Windows Phone at Microsoft UK.
However, Ran added that Microsoft is likely to keep Windows Mobile as its mobile platform for the enterprise, because of the numerous corporate-friendly features the platform has accumulated, such as its built-in virtual private network and management support, features that do not appear to have made the jump to Windows Phone 7 Series.
"On the corporate side, Windows Mobile 6.5 already gives best-in-class support for remote deployment, security and business email, and we will continue to invest in 6.5 for the UK market," Ran said.
But the new platform is not totally consumer centric, with its Office hub providing access to the Office Mobile applications SharePoint and Outlook for email. As in Windows Mobile 6.5, the Office applications will be able to view files created in Office for the PC, and Outlook will more closely resemble the PC version.
The browser in Windows Phone 7 Series is also much improved and based on the code used for desktop versions of Internet Explorer, which should make it easier to use with web-based applications and full web sites.
"We did this because we care about rendering, and how web sites should look on a phone. The key goal is to make sure it is the most compatible it can be," Ran said.
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