The Windows Phone 7 operating system won't arrive for a few more months and Microsoft is using the extra time to dole out morsels of information about its upcoming mobile OS - one with the unfortunate task of competing with Apple's iPhone and a bumper crop of Google Android-based phones.
The latest Windows Phone details arrived on Tuesday at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Washington, DC. In addition to trumpeting the features we've already heard of - the graceful Zune interface and numerous social networking and office productivity skills - Microsoft's Andy Lees revealed a new service called Windows Phone Live, a "companion site" for Windows Phone 7 users that's essentially an online hub for their personal content.
According to Lees, the free site will let users view their Windows Live calendar and contacts, exchange OneNote files (a plus for Microsoft Office users), view pictures they've published, and access other information shared between their Windows Phone 7 device and the web.
There's a definite Microsoft-centric slant to Windows Phone Live, but it's no surprise that Microsoft would meld its mobile OS with its extensive collection of online services. Bing, for instance, will be Windows Phone 7's default search engine. And Windows Phone Live will offer users 25GB of storage on Microsoft's SkyDrive site.
Some of the Windows Phone Live's tools, including the SkyDrive storage, are already available for free from Microsoft and other online providers. Slick integration, however, would make the service a compelling feature for Windows Phone 7 users.
Another interesting feature: Find My Phone, which lets users track down a missing phone from the comfort of their PC. They can remotely lock and erase their Windows Phone 7 devices too.
The fact that Windows Phone Live is free may prove a big draw. Apple, by comparison, charges iPhone users $100 a year for MobileMe, a collection of web-based services that also includes the ability to remotely find, lock down, and wipe clean lost iPhones. And Research in Motion on Monday announced that its upcoming BlackBerry OS 6 would have free data backup and protection tools, including remote lockdown, backup, and data deletion.
The verdict's still out on Windows Phone 7, of course, and it remains to be seen just how seamlessly Windows Phone Live's services integrate with the phones that support it. But Microsoft needs to make a big splash to lure consumers away from Android and iPhone, and Windows Phone Live seems like a step in the right direction.