Microsoft Zunes in on Phone interfaces

Posted by Sylvie Barak

While everyone waited with baited breath for Microsoft to announce a "Zune phone" at this year's MWC in Barcelona, Steve Ballmer added a surprise Microsoft twist to the mix, effectively announcing that all Microsoft phones would be Zune phones from now on.

In terms of interface, anyway.

"Every Windows Phone 7 Series will be a Zune," confirmed Joe Belfiore, VP of Windows Phone, before waxing lyrical about what a "delightful" experience it would be for users, how "deeply personal," "relevant to daily life" and – yes you guessed it – "fun."

Using every marketing-speak phrase he could think of, Belfiore said that this time, Microsoft really had taken strides to "put the user at the center of the experience," which leaves one to wonder where Microsoft saw the user in past experiences [Slightly to the left? Upper right?].

In a nutshell, Windows Phone 7 Series is nothing like Windows mobile. It's consumer rather than enterprisey, its sleek software as opposed to clunky, and it's the Zune interface ported to phones, and not phones ported to Zune.

The whole thing apparently revolves around three buttons and six hubs.

The buttons - Start, Search and back - are the hardware part of the whole shebang, and will be forced onto handset makers who want winpho7series on their hardware. Search, of course, is powered by Bing, so don't expect to find anything useful.

As for the hubs, there's one for People, Pictures, Games, Music & Video, Marketplace and Office, all to ensure a healthy work/life balance. Because Microsoft wants you to be a balanced individual. Because balanced individuals play games on Xbox live, and that too is integrated into Phone 7. W00t.

That's right, your avatar, your high scores, your games, all in the palm of your hand, without having to "go in and out of apps," which is apparently an annoying thing to have to do.

Because Microsoft also controls its own cloud, Windows Phone 7 can also automatically update and synch itself, saving you, the lazy user, from having to do it himself. Which we must admit sounds both logical and necessary.

So in conclusion, Microsoft has come out with a decent offering, albeit not a mindblowing one. And don't expect the firm's enterprise customers to be jumping for joy at the prospect of having to use an interface which previously catered to their teenagers' MP3 player.

Ballmer, however, was upbeat. "Seven has been a good number for Microsoft this year," he said. "Let's hope it stays our lucky number."