Windows Phone 7 can be remotely located, wiped

Microsoft previewed new features of the upcoming release of the OS during a presentation at a company event

Lose your phone much? If so, you may want to consider one running Windows Phone 7 (WP7) for your next replacement.

With this new OS, Microsoft will offer a service that will help locate missing phones. And if the phone can't be retrieved, a free service will also lock or wipe the phone so the information can't be accessed by others, said Andy Lees, Microsoft senior vice president of mobile.

Lees mentioned this feature during his presentation of Windows Phone 7 Tuesday at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C.

Although Microsoft has admitted to falling behind in the heated race for smartphone OSes, it is working to leapfrog the Apple iOS and Google Android with its next generation smartphone OS.

The company has scheduled WP7 for release toward the end of the year.

One of the services that Microsoft will offer with each running copy of the WP7 will be a companion Web page, Lees said. From this Web page, a user can call their phone and listen for its ring, or get information about its location.

"If you lost your phone, it will tell you where it is. You can ring it, lock it, wipe it whatever you like," Lees said.

For the audience, Lees demonstrated the WP7, which is markedly different from the iPhone and the Android. Instead of filling the screen with individual app icons, the phone interface will be based on tiles, or small blocks that serve as clickable entry points to topics, or "hubs," as Lees called them.

One hub might be for people. One might be dedicated to photos. Another may be for music. One might be for the office application. Each hub will bring together data from multiple local and cloud-based applications. A contacts hub, for instance, can group work contacts from Microsoft Exchange, along with personal contacts from Facebook.

Microsoft is also working on ways to more tightly integrate applications. For instance, when the user is sent an invitation to a meeting, the Exchange-based e-mail client can check with the Exchange-based calendar to see if that time slot is also taken. Clicking on an address in an e-mail can bring up a map of the address' location, and offer directions from the user's current location. The Bing search client can check the user's location, so that a query for movies lists the showtimes of the nearest theaters.

Lees also addressed how the audience, mostly Microsoft business partners, could work with the phone. "This phone is for business and consumers," he said.

Windows Phone 7 is being built with Microsoft's Silverlight, .NET and XNA, a collection of tools for game development. "This means that you can take assets you have already developed [for the PC and the Xbox] and transfer them over for the phone," Lees told the audience.

One of the chief virtues of the phone will be its unified code base, Lees said.

The mobile phone handset industry has "a problem with fragmentation with the phones," Lees said, perhaps alluding to putative fragmentation of the Android code base. With WP7, "you [will] have a very consistent hardware target. You won't have to worry about lots of screen sizes or the capabilities of the phone. You design once and the app will run with 100 percent consistency," he promised the audience.

On Tuesday, Microsoft released a beta version of its WP7 develop tool set. The company is also finalizing WP7's set of application programming interfaces. HTC, Samsung, LG and Dell have all pledged to design WP7 phones, Lees said.

This is an important time in the mobile phone industry, Lees said.

"What happens over the next five years will define the industry for the following 10," he said. "We believe [WP7] is a completely new strategy, we believe it is a completely different kind of phone."

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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Tags consumer electronicsMicrosoftmobile phoneswindows phone 7PhonesMS WPCsmartphonesWindows Phone 7 Series

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Joab Jackson

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