Windows Phone Update: June 2010
User Interface Changes

At the TechEd 2010 tech conference last week in New Orleans, Microsoft talked up its strategy for attracting business customers to the Windows Phone platform. I've written about this elsewhere, but the short version is that Windows Phone corporate support will be good, but not excellent, out of the box, causing Microsoft to support Windows Mobile 6.5 at least through calendar year 2011. (As with other aspects of Windows Phone, Microsoft is trying to nail the most needed scenarios, but as a result, there will be some functionality gaps at first.)

You may recall that Microsoft first discussed Windows Phone back in February at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, revealing its plans for the new platform for the first time. (Read my three-part preview for more information.) Then, at MIX'10 in Las Vegas a month later, the company talked up the Windows Phone developer story and discussed, in details, the key ways in which it was trying to differentiate Windows Phone from the competition. (Read my three-part Key Themes series for details.)

Then, in May, I spent a week at the Microsoft campus, using a prototype Windows Phone device and documenting exactly how each screen looks and works. I did this primarily for my next book, Windows Phone Secrets, so much of what I learned during that time is still covered under a strict embargo. But I was also able to have a lengthy discussion with Microsoft partner group program manager Charlie Kindel and senior product manager Greg Sullivan and the non-embargoed parts of that discussion form last month's Windows Phone Update.

As noted above, last week, at TechEd 2010, Microsoft provided its third major discussion around Windows Phone 7, this time focusing on office productivity issues and changes to Windows Marketplace policies. And as part of this public discussion, the company provided live demonstrations using more up-to-date versions of Windows Phone, matching some of what I learned last month. Thus, I'm happy to finally be able to discuss some small but interesting tweaks that the company is making to the Windows Phone UI.

This month's Windows Phone Update involves at peek at those changes.


Live Tile changes

Not surprisingly, Microsoft continues to tweak and hone the look of the live tiles that differentiate the dynamic Windows Phone home screen from the more static grids of icons used by the competition. If you look back at the initial UI shown off in February, most of the live tiles are bland and featureless, and not very differentiated. But as these shots provided by Microsoft corporate vice president Terry Myerson, during his TechEd session Windows Phone 7: A New Kind of Phone, show, the Windows Phone UI is progressing nicely.


Before and after: The February build (left) compared to a more up-to-date build (right) of Windows Phone.

More specifically, the plain Mail icon from the February build has been replaced by more expressive Outlook and Windows Live icons, each of which can appear on mail-based tiles based on the type of account being used. And the Marketplace tile has a nice look that mimics the current Windows Mobile-based Marketplace imagery.

And while you can't see this in the shots above, during the live demo, you could see some interesting "squishing" effects that I first noticed during my hands-on time back in May. When you scroll to the bottom of a list of tiles or icons, it sort of bounces into the bottom. But you can also touch a tile and cause it to squish a bit, a visual cue that you can do something with that object.

Hub changes

Myerson also provided a more up-to-date look at the various hubs, or integrated panoramic experiences, that Microsoft plans to include with Windows Phone. Interestingly, some of these haven't changed at all since February, but the Music + Video view is updated, and the Applications view (from within Marketplace) is new.


A more up-to-date look at the Windows Phone hubs.

There's more going on with the Marketplace, but I don't believe that was ever shown off at TechEd, so I'll have to hold back on that until I'm sure. But even with these small, subtle changes, it's obvious that work is progressing and that Microsoft is inching ever closer to the final design.

One more thing...

When I did visit the Microsoft campus back in May, I mocked up a semi-complete Windows Phone 7 home screen based on what I had seen and the screenshots I was able to take. Now that all of the information seen in that mockup are public, I can present it here. Note that this is the "full" home screen and that the Windows Phone screen acts as a portal into that view, displaying only a portion of it at a time. So it's a tall image that the phone would normally scroll down over.


My Windows phone mockup.