Microsoft trotted out the latest build of its Windows Phone 7 operating at the Casual Connect games conference in Seattle today – and Stuff was there to put it through its paces – including the intriguing possibility of sharing apps with fellow users. (Apologies for the limited photos, I was only allowed to shoot the home screen).
The new OS was running on an unidentified Samsung handset – although sadly not the luscious Galaxy S, it fairly zipped along, with an extremely responsive capacitive screen and no lag between screens.
You might have heard good things about the Windows Phone ’tiles’ and they are indeed simple to use and beautiful to look at, flipping smoothly aside or spinning swiftly off the screen like old-fashioned train departure boards.
Basic phone functions were up and running, including Wi-Fi, although there was no SIM on board, so the dialer and smart-looking contacts list were empty. Messaging is well handled by a speedy soft keyboard that flashes up spell suggestions between the letters and the input box (although is it wrong of me to wish Microsoft had Swype on board?).
The calendar is fairly ho-hum, with an Outlook-y data entry screen and then day or month views. Internet Explorer worked surprisingly well (I was told it’s an early build), rendering complex pages well, if not particularly quickly. Pinch to zoom was working.
Music and video is heavily branded with Zune, and the large typeface menu looks just as good as any of Microsoft’s elegant media players. Photo browsing offered the usual swipes and zoom options.
Casual Connect being a games show, the PR was keen to show off Xbox Live, which picks up avatars from your Xbox 360 account and is fully integrated with achievements and so on. The 3D sci-fi RPG Harvest demo showed destructible environments and leaden gameplay in equal measure, but at least it proves the phones aren’t all about business.
Finally, a basic Marketplace shell was up and running with a choice of widget-style (weather, news and sports) apps to download, linked to your Windows Live ID account.
Interestingly, there were two options on each app page – one to install, the other to share – raising the possibility of Zune-style wireless sharing of apps. Let’s hope so as temporary sharing of hot tunes was always one of Zune’s better ideas. More on Casual Connect coming soon.