To date, I’ve tended to use different devices for different reasons:
- A Sony flash-based Walkman to listen to MP3 audio books on.
- An Archos 605 hard-disc PMP to watch videos on.
- A Windows 7 laptop for those circumstances when the Archos can’t cope, e.g. a format that I cannot get to play or transcode properly such as WTV or some forms of MP4 video.
I am increasingly finding this far from ideal, though. The Sony Walkman requires me to use Sony’s Connect software which isn’t Windows 7 compatible so I have to run it as a virtualised application.
I am also very frustrated at the problems I’ve been having either trying to transcode WTV over to the Archos or getting it to play MP4. Thankfully, when I do drag an MP4 file onto the Archos, Windows 7 offers to transcode it into a format that the Archos will support and it does a good job of it. I just don’t understand why the same doesn’t happen with WTV.
So I’m really looking forward to getting a Windows Phone 7 device. I had previously been holding out for a Zune but since they never materialised in the UK, this will be the ideal replacement, I think.
I’m not entirely kidding myself, though. I know that I’ll have to use the Zune software to get any content onto the phone which is, I think, a bit of a shame. Hopefully, there will be an update for Windows Media Center to allow it to synchronise to WP7 without the need to use the Zune software, since the latter won’t support the 10’ interface.
I’m also aware that from a software perspective, using WP7 is going to be very different from Windows Mobile. The latter allowed you to install virtually anything you liked that someone had written for the OS. With WP7, however, you need to get the software through the Marketplace. I like that this gives Microsoft the opportunity to validate everything that is made available for these devices. On the downside, though, it means that if you want to write some freeware, it is still going to cost you $99 a year to make your software available. That is going to put quite a few people off writing software for free.
It will be interesting to see the physical sizes of the devices later this year. The Archos has a reasonable size screen on it, although the resolution is slightly lower than that of WP7. I’ve had an opportunity to use an HD2 and I think that, for me, that form factor is just a little bit on the large side, unfortunately. It isn’t very comfortable when you hold it.
Hopefully, it will be possible to connect WP7 devices via HDMI or other video cables to a TV for larger size playback. It would be great if you could actually put HD video onto a WP7 phone, have it downscale it for its own display but then render it at full quality for TV playback.
It is entirely possible that I won’t get all my wishes in the first release of software. However, one thing that Microsoft have made clear is that they will be releasing updates over the air (OTA) rather than through carriers. This is significant and one of the reasons why Windows Mobile had so much trouble – carriers didn’t really care that much about getting updates released.
The recent reviews of WP7 have largely been very positive and I’ve not read anything yet to suggest that I’m making a bad decision here. Hopefully there will be more information coming to light soon so that I can clear up some of the questions I’ve got around the functionality.