While CEO Steve Ballmer is the one who will get top billing at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it is Microsoft veteran Andy Lees who is largely responsible for shepherding the long-delayed software project to completion.
Ballmer and Lees, who came from Microsoft's server unit in March 2008, will be showing the fruits of that work--a ground-up redesign of the phone operating system into something that looks a lot more like the Zune HD than it does any prior version of Windows Mobile.
While Microsoft won't be building the phones itself, it is being pretty strict about both the components that must be included (think FM radio and capacitive touch screen) as well as also prohibiting phone makers from putting their own skin over the user interface, something that many had taken to doing to hide Windows Mobile in recent generations.
In an interview just before he headed to Barcelona, Lees talked about Microsoft's different approach with the new software, the role of Zune and Xbox in the product, as well as why Microsoft still believes it can catch up to leaders like Apple, Google and Research In Motion.
There is also a separate Microsoft-designed phone effort, code-named Pink, that is due out this year, ahead of the first crop of third-party Windows Phone 7 Series devices, although Lees wouldn't talk about those.
Here's an edited transcript of our conversation:
Q: So essentially what is Windows Mobile 7, or whatever it's being called? Andy Lees: Windows Phone 7 Series. As you may remember, we about 18 months ago decided that we're going to re-evaluate our mobile strategy, and what we're doing in the mobile space. That was based on the inflection point that was happening in a number of ways, both in terms of convergence of different industries colliding together, and also the technologies of what is becoming possible, of course, driven by Moore's Law in the hardware, connectivity, and new-user paradigms, people using their phones in concert with the Web, and their PCs, and TVs, and things. And so that really created the impetus to go through it. … Read more