Since the Apple iPhone was launched in 2007, media commentators and Zune fans have been waiting for Microsoft to release a phone based on their Zune media platform. Interest in the Zune phone concept has been growing in recent years, and many articles have been written about its rumored features. However, at the Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona, Microsoft unveiled the Windows Phone 7 Series and made it clear that they had no immediate plans for a Zune phone. This announcement was disappointing to many Zune fans but it was tempered with the news that the Zune software would be part of Windows Phone 7 Series.
Zune is the brand name for Microsoft’s range of portable media players and related software. As most people would be aware by now, Microsoft is the company behind the Windows operating system that is used on the vast majority of desktop and notebook computers. Zune was developed as a competitor to Apple’s hugely successful iPod players and iTunes software, and the Zune Phone was suppose to be a competitor to the iPhone. Microsoft were late to enter this fast growing market but they have been making good progress at clawing back the huge lead that Apple has built up in the years before Zune was launched. It was assumed by many that the Zune phone would be the next stage in Microsoft’s comeback strategy.
The hardware features of the Zune phone were thought to be similar to those of the Apple iPhone. The dominant feature of the iPhone is a touch-sensitive LCD screen, which measures 3.5 inches across and has a resolution of 320 by 480 pixels. The screen can detect multiple touch points at the same time, which makes it possible to manipulate images and play video games with just your fingers. The iPhone has a powerful processor, camera, and up to 32GB of storage depending on the model. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, USB 2.0 port, and support for quad-band GSM. It’s loaded with the same iPhone OS operating system that is used by the iPod Touch.
The announcement of Windows Phone 7 Series is a great leap forward for Microsoft’s mobile operating system. It follows the release of the popular Window 7 operating system for desktop and notebook computers, and represents a break from the long running Windows Mobile family. Since it has only been announced and not launched yet, there are not many details available. One thing is certain, Windows Phone 7 Series will have both Zune and Xbox Live software as applications. You could argue that any phone that has this new operating system is technically a Zune Phone, but it goes without saying that many Zune fans would disagree with that argument.
The new user interface of Windows Phone 7 Series is the most noticeable difference. It’s completely different to the Windows Mobile interface and makes a phone look similar to a Zune HD. It has been designed from the ground up to make it easier to control with finger touches. The home screen is dominated by large squares that take the user to various functions, but the familiar Windows start menu and the usual controls are no longer there. There is also an emphasis on large text and pictures to identify various functions. The hardware features of each phone will be up to its manufacturer, so long as they meet Microsoft’s strict requirements.
The convergence of mobile phones, portable media players, and handheld gaming devices will only continue into the future. It’s anyone guess if there will be one gadget that does everything or lots of specialized gadgets. The intense market pressure coming from a new generation of netbooks and tablet computers may also have an impact on future phone designs. Whether Zune fans will see a Zune phone in the future is up to Microsoft. In the meantime, they will have to make do with a phone running Windows Phone 7 Series. It’s greatly improved interface is reason enough for anyone with a phone running Windows Mobile to upgrade when it’s released, and the fact that it has both Zune and Xbox Live is an added bonus.