Friday, July 1, 2011

Is Windows Phone 7 for power users?

Microsoft tried very hard to make WP7 like the iPhone OS, and they were quite successful. Windows Phone 7 looks, acts,

and behaves just like its Apple competition, to the detriment of power users.

Like the iPhone and iTunes, WP7 syncs with your computer via the Zune suite; gone is the former connection via Activesync and Windows Mobile Device Center. Also gone is the ability to synchronize with Outlook in any way.

Outlook contacts, now known as People in WP7, and Outlook Calendar must be imported to Windows Live in order to synchronize with Windows Phone 7. And it was my experience that not all information made the transfer, forcing me to input some manually.

Users no longer have the ability to load their own files onto the device, unless they fall under the prescribed categories of images, music, or video. There is no form of file explorer whatsoever, or any way for users to access the file system. The device isn't even mapped as a removable drive upon connection to a PC.

All file services for any applications are now the sole responsibility of the application developer, meaning the developer is responsible for providing the user a means with which to load data onto the device; most that I've encountered have chosen to utilize the online Dropbox service. While free, and easily set-up and configured, it does have its drawbacks; upload speed being foremost.

There have been whispers that Windows Phone 7.1, codenamed "Mango," will have a file explorer incorporated, but I've heard nothing definitive from Microsoft as of yet.

Because users cannot load their own files onto the device, there is no way to customize ringtones, alarms, notifications, system sounds, or to load custom "themes."

Also gone from the new mobile OS is multi-tasking. WP7 utilizes a process similar to Apple's "rapid app switching," but is nothing like true multi-tasking, wherein multiple applications can be running on the device at the same time. However, "Mango" will feature what appears to be actual multi-tasking.

One of the more frustrating aspects of WP7 is how it integrates with Office Mobile. Documents can be created on the device, but other than emailing them to yourself, there's no way to get them onto your PC. Documents from the PC can be loaded into your Skydrive account in Windows Live, and viewed on the device, but there's no way to edit the document on your device. Ostensibly, documents can be created on the device, uploaded to a Sharepoint server, and downloaded to a PC, or vice-versa, but I found the installation and configuration process for Sharepoint to be considerably more technical and involved than the average user is capable of handling. In addition, Sharepoint is an additional suite which must be purchased.

The verdict

So is Windows Phone 7 for power-users? In short, no. WP7 is what it was designed to be, and does what it was designed to do, but it's just too crippled for business use or the tech-savvy power-user. Perhaps, with the forthcoming "Mango" update, the OS will open up a bit and be more user-accessible. For the time being though, it's not something most heavy tech users will find accommodating. But for those seeking a social networking, entertainment-driven operating system, it's likely to be just the environment they're seeking.