Apple changed the consumer electronics world with its release of the iPhone. When it hit the market in 2007, the smart phone market was dominated by RIM, Microsoft, and PalmSource. It was a world where a mobile device capable of accessing the internet and email was almost purely for professional purposes. The iPhone turned that all on its head, and Apple's current market share shows that.
The competitors tried to cling to sales during this tectonic shift. RIM did the best arguably, thanks in no small part to their rabid, blind supporters. Palm has done decently with its eventual entry that was the Palm Pre and their WebOS, overall an admirable addition to the industry. Microsoft was far less frantic over the shift, they quietly released Windows 6.5 with a little HARUMPH, which was of a quality that can pretty much be expected from a.5 revision of anything.
But now, a year after their release of Windows 7, Microsoft is officially releasing their Windows 7 mobile OS, and the verdict: it's really actually pretty great.
The overall design of the OS is particularly stark, with bright colors and sharp corners on a purely black background. There aren't a lot of frills here, but what's here is graphically sharp and eye-catching. Navigation is simple and intuitive, which is to be expected of course on a touch platform. Swiping between tiles is smooth, a smoothness that is rivaled only by the iPhone OS. There's a particularly appealing way that the menus will stack on top of one another as you navigate, and all of the tiles (think context-sensitive icons) show this subtle parallax (like the backgrounds in old SNES games) as they scroll across the screen which is particularly pleasing.
The tiles are the real substance for the OS, as they offer access to all of the basic utilities and applications. They're simple in appearance, but will change according to new information and updates, displaying missed calls or new emails for example.
The other big thing that Windows Phone 7 offers is a 'people' section, rather than contacts. This allows you to merge all of your contact lists and friend lists (yes, Facebook included) into one pride-inflating mega list. This is all well and good for plenty of users, but people with stratospheric friend numbers will be forced to exclude Facebook from their syncing list if they ever intend to find someone manually.
There are a few blemishes on this otherwise hi-gloss beauty, surely. The biggest thing missing is a lack of a universal search in the OS, which is an omission that's more or less mind-blowing these days. Their graphical design, while stark and interesting, can also tend to grate from time to time. Also, if a phrase under a tile is too long it will literally draw the text until it has to sever the pixels, turning n's to r's and o's to c's and all sorts of other crazy things. These are minor irritants though, and the total user experience is quite accessible.
Overall, Windows has made a consumer phone platform that is sleek, attractive, and positively brimming with promise.