While the rest of the tech world is falling over itself to develop the best iPhone clone, Microsoft has gone in a slightly different direction by forgoing apps in favour of an interface that is somewhat dynamic. If you've ever seen the new Zune HD in action (and it's STILL not available in Canada) then it will seem familiar visually, but you really need to see the video (www.engadget.com) to see how the interface works.
It has a few advantages over iPhone. For one, most of the important applications are built-in and sync with one another. For example, it organizes your contacts as people, allowing you to read messages, get updates from their Facebook pages and shared photo albums, read e-mails, calls and texts, share music playlists through the Zune music store, etc.
For another, it allows for a kind of multitasking where you can answer your phone and go back and forth between programs without starting over. There's a clipboard so you can copy information when switching between applications, but it's impossible to have two windows open at once. It's better than the iPhone, but other phones still do multi-tasking better.
Unlike the iPhone, it also appears that the Windows 7 phone could support Adobe Flash, opening up the possibility of watching Flash videos, using Flash menus and websites, playing Flash Games and enjoying other dynamic content.
There's support for Windows Office documents, synchronization with Windows applications like Outlook and other features, which makes the phone somewhat appealing to business users. There's also synchronization with Windows Live services, which includes Messenger.
It's also nice looking, has a great OLED screen that supports multi-touch, a respectable camera, the possibility for a front facing camera in the future (still a rumour) that allows web conference and motion-sensitive control, probably a pretty good processor similar to the Zune HD that's good for videos and games (and the phone does integrate with Xbox Live) and a lot of other tools.
Some questions that still need to be answered include third party applications - do you have to get a Zune account to download them? - and the actual tech specs. How much storage? And is it expandable?
Last but not least we have a question of price. To compete with the iPhone it has to be cheaper to buy, or come without any strings attached to allow people to shop for their own plans. Features like VOIP through Windows Messenger would help to make any price more attractive but would turn off the cell phone providers.
Presumably there will be more information available in the coming months as Microsoft works towards a release date of "late 2010."