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Microsoft Announces Windows Phone 7 Series Ian's avatar
This phone has an xbox button. weird.
Here I am taking a break from my busy schedule of being mean about the iPad to have a look at Microsoft’s latest mobile OS, the slightly awkwardly named Windows Phone 7 Series. Debuting at Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona this announcement is not only tangentially related to games like the iPad was, but there is a genuine reason for covering it on a primarily game related site, it has Xbox Live in it! Microsoft will allow phone makers to put this OS on any phone that has an FM radio (this is key), and also is powerful enough to run it and has exactly 3 buttons (Back, Start and Search). The interface slides up and down vertically and looks a bit like a holiday magazine, and pleasantly doesn’t look like just another iPhone rip off icon grid.

For those of you who obsessively watch press conferences, you may remember Microsoft’s Live Anywhere scheme that they announced back at e3 2006. If you somehow missed that auspicious occasion I’ll fill you in. They talked about the possibility of having your phone connected to live, anywhere, allowing you to earn achievement points anywhere as well. It would work on any Live Anywhere enabled phone, and they had plans to integrate it with their current games line up. They example they used was having a car tweaking app that would integrate with Forza 2, so you could do complicated car sounding things while out and about then import it into the game somehow, possibly via the cloud. It was all a bit vague and never really ended up happening.

The Xbox Live integration into Phone 7 Series seems to be the eventual realisation of this idea. Knowing how big companies are organised, I think the mobile and gaming teams probably spend two of the intervening years trying to find out where each other worked or what their phone numbers were (only to find they’d been sitting 2 desks over from them the whole time). You will be able to look up your achievements, make your avatar wave at you, and they’ll probably put some games out on it. Interestingly, the OS does not seem to require any sort of motion control capable handset, so the Super Monkey Ball people must be upset that their game won’t work on it. What will work will be a whole gaggle of one-button Tower Bloxx/Canabalt style games, and hopefully not too many games which resort to drawing on-screen joysticks that don’t work in the slightest.

The OS will be released into the wild sometime around Holiday 2010.

Editor Opinions
Ian's avatar

Being able to check my achievements on an officially produced and well made iPhone app has been something that I have wanted for some time. Clearly Microsoft never had any intention of making such a thing, and this announcement is probably one of countless reasons why. I’ve been trying to think of what this service would really need to do to make me give up my iPhone, and in all honesty without trying to seem like a deranged fan boy, I don’t think there’s anything it could do.

The convenience of being able to check my achievements anywhere from an official client is really not that enticing, especially compared to the multitude of things that even long into Phone 7's lifespan it won't be able to do, which my iPhone currently does here and now. You know, stuff like a dumb Starbucks App that I’ve used once, and the complete talkie version of Simon the Sorcerer I bought for £1.16. I’ve already made a modest commitment to the iPhone platform, and as time wares on it will continue to get harder and harder to escape it’s insidious maws. It’s a bit like sinking in quick sand except the more you struggle, the more you accidentally buy versions of Peggle.

Sam's avatar

I'm aware that it's irrational, but I'm totally sold on how achievements provide me with motivation to persevere with aspects of games I might not explore otherwise. XBox Live adds a little more to this by fleshing out your achievements with a bit of personality and as such, I see it as my gaming CV which details my playing career. Most of the friends I socialise with feel likewise and so I'd love to be able to pop my phone out at a moment's notice to see compare achievements and boast about having obtained Modern Warfare's 'Mile High Club'. Unfortunately, most of my friends also have iPhones.

I'm not a huge iPhone App user, but I agree that it would be nice to have something similar to what Microsoft are planning for their OS and I might even be persuaded to part with a couple of pounds for it. However, I'm not completely convinced that Microsoft never had any intention of making the application, but rather they considered the chances of Apple actually approving the project slim to none and didn't want to waste the resources of something that might never see the light of day.