PHOTOS: A hands-on tour of Windows Phone 7

When it came to smartphones Microsoft executives were surprisingly self-deprecating at this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington DC.

“We missed a generation with Windows Mobile and really did miss almost a whole release cycle” said CEO Steve Ballmer in his keynote launching the event – which brought together 9300 attendees and 3000 Microsoft staff. “I think we will give you a set of Windows based devices which people will be proud to carry at home and which will really fit and support the kind of scenario that enterprise IT is trying to make happen within the phone form factor.”
But there under careful watch in the conference’s expo booth was a friendly Microsoft staffer obsessively wiping clean the surface of a rarely-spotted LG smartphone prototype running the new operating system. He would show us the device and let us photograph it but with a few rules: no touching the phone no videoing the phone no photographing the demonstrator.
Got it. Here’s what we saw:
The Windows Phone 7 home screen shows announcements such as key upcoming appointments.

Press the centre button at any time to get back to this overview which breaks sections of the phone into panels that you tap to access relevant functionality.
Facebook and SkyDrive are hooked into the WP7 paradigm with other outlets (for example TwitPic) mooted for possible future inclusion.
It’s ali-i-i-i-v-e! Remember Zune? The media player’s interface has been re-trained to control media playback inside WP7.

WP7 is hugely weighted toward the cloud: here for example we see how it can automatically pull down album art from the Net.

Applications can be viewed in a full list and selectively pinned to other panels across the phone.

Link your phone contacts with social media aliases SkyDrive photos and more and WP7 will collate everything new on a dedicated screen.

Icons – which can represent people playlists maps and more – can feature animation such as moving avatars and continually-rotating slide shows from picture libraries. 

Content is indexed to peoples’ photos to suit WP7’s visual panel-oriented design.

WP7’s mapping app is a portal into Microsoft’s Bing Maps.

Built-in filters can easily identify and surface important new messages.

The Agenda screen shows – wait for it – your daily agenda.

The monthly calendar view makes it easy to identify free days.

If you’re big on photography you’ll see this screen a whole lot.

Control over white balance brightness resolution colour effects like sepia and B&W (not shown) and more lets you tailor your images however you like them.
Microsoft’s Bing Maps including informative hotspots like on the Web version is built deeply into the WP7 environment. Click the magnifying glass button to search at any time: it’s context-sensitive so if you’re reading mails it will prioritise results from your mailboxes.

David Braue attended the Worldwide Partner Conference as a guest of Microsoft.

The demo was smooth and offered promise although there were no third-party apps on the phone yet – and that will be one of WP7’s biggest challenges. But in the meantime: What do you think? Do these shots look appealing? Are you considering a WP7 phone when the platform comes out?