Another week, another treat from our mole: Windows Mobile 7, which we should see for the first time at Mobile World Congress next month, is intended for release before Christmas of 2010 - not 2011. And there's more.
For a release to follow a debut by six months or more isn't unprecedented for Microsoft, where long public beta testing periods have become the norm, if not the rule. And a late 2010 release is in line with older estimates, which have been recently derailed by claims that it would be pushed off until 2011. Even more interesting, though, is that the OS still seems to be in a state of flux. Here's what we've heard:
• It'll be shown at MWC, but don't expect Microsoft to give a firm release date estimate - they're not ready for that yet. LG slipped up and hinted at a September release for their first Windows Mobile 7 phones, but it sounds doubtful that anyone's release dates are set in stone - and they'll likely have to toe Microsoft's line, since with WinMo 6.5, Microsoft's been enforcing a hard, unified launch date for Windows Phones; something they never really did before.
• Contrary to Eldar Murtazin's report that Windows Mobile 6.x apps won't work on the OS, we hear that they will. Our info implies a promise of support though - not necessarily out-of-the-box, native compatibility - which could imply anything from an emulator (like webOS's Classic app) to a set of streamlined porting tools for devs. Regardless, this isn't really the kind of thing someone could deduce from playing with a device for a few minutes, which is what Eldar appears to have done.
• Speaking of apps, we should expect an SDK for the new OS to be available as early as June, giving devs a little lead time to have apps ready for the new OS. This implies that the platform will be markedly different than 6.x, which pretty much everyone has been assuming all along anyway.
• It doesn't look quite like any of the renders or mockups we've seen floating around. There are some aesthetic similarities to some of the early renders, but they're not pronounced enough to say that it looks like anything that's already been "leaked".
• The new input system, we we initially called "Natal-like", is more of a complex gesture system than a whole new way of interacting with the phone. There is a motion sensing element, but it's a close-quarters, proximity-sensing type thing, and only used for certain gestures: pinch zooming, rotation, twisting, etc. This was also described to us as resembling a tech demo, so it may not be a banner feature for the OS, but rather something that Microsoft is toying with behind the scenes.
• It's being kept secret in a way that's somewhat rare for Microsoft. It's only being shown to people immediately concerned with the project within the company, and evidently to a small group of journalists as well. It's Zune-HD-level secrecy, which is to say, pretty high.
That's all we've got for now, and with Mobile World Congress creeping closer by the minute, it'd be safe to assume we'll learn more before the big unveil. We'll keep digging.