Microsoft has released Windows Phone 7, not to be confused with Windows 7, which is something completely different. Windows Phone 7 is the operating system for handheld cell phones that have computing capability, often referred to as "smartphones."
Microsoft used to produce one of the two dominant operating systems for smartphones, competing with Palm. Since those days, Palm has almost disappeared, and Microsoft's smartphone operating system has also lost market share, now trailing far behind Apple and Android. Some writers claim that Nokia's Symbian operating system is the best selling smartphone operating system (see Wikipedia.org's claims at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smartphone), but I doubt those claims. I don't see Symbian mentioned all that often in the ads that I see, although I do understand it is very popular in Europe and the Far East.
Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's big effort to regain market share.
Even worse, programs written for Windows Phone 6.5 do not operate at all on Windows Phone 7. All the companies that have produced software for earlier versions of Windows Phone will have to re-write their programs for the latest operating system.
When asked about the lack of compatibility with previous Windows Phone applications, Microsoft executives stated that they decided to "reboot" the operating system and re-write most of the operating system software to include new functionality that would have been difficult to add to the old code base. This strikes me as an excellent decision for technical reasons and a poor decision for business reasons. The new operating system will probably be more powerful and, hopefully, should run faster. However, vendors and customers are now left with obsolete products. Vendors will need to invest a lot of money in re-writes and updates.
If Windows Phone 7 products become popular, that will be money well spent. However, if Windows Phone 7 continues to be the third or fourth most popular operating system, the vendors will have wasted money to attract few customers.
For instance, the Pocket Genealogist from Northern Hills Software has always been one of my favorite genealogy programs for handheld devices and I wrote several articles about that program. See http://goo.gl/BcRp for some of my past articles. Sadly, Northern Hills Software has posted the following announcement on the company's web site:
Pocket Genealogist would need to be totally rewritten in order to work on Windows Phone 7. Additionally, there are limitations with the initial release of Windows Phone 7 that would make it difficult or impossible to support a serious genealogy application like Pocket Genealogist.
We therefore are taking a wait and see approach to Windows Phone 7. Both features and popularity of the platform will be evaluated before we commit to making a version that will work with Windows Phone 7.
The above is an excerpt. The full announcement can be found at: http://www.pocketgenealogist.com/EN/Information/support_wp7.htm
Unfortunately, there are no full-featured genealogy programs available today for the new Windows Phone 7 operating system. Hopefully, that will soon change. If so, I will be writing about any new Windows Mobile 7 genealogy programs in future newsletters.
There is one notable Windows Phone 7 program of interest to genealogists, however. Mark Tucker, author of the ThinkGenealogy blog, has written a useful utility for genealogists. Quoting from Mark's announcement:
"I am excited to announce what might be the very first genealogy app for the soon-to-be released Windows Phone 7. It is a graphical cousin calculator that can determine the relationship between two individuals by knowing the relationship of each to their closest common ancestor. With just a few taps and drags, you can determine the relationship of any two people."
You can watch a video that describes the Cousin Calculator on the ThinkGenealogy blog at http://www.thinkgenealogy.com/2010/09/25/first-windows-phone-7-genealogy-app/
Cousin Calculator appears to be a very useful utility and will be of interest to any genealogist who purchases a smartphone that runs Windows Phone 7. However, it is not a full-fledged genealogy program that stores and retrieves your entire genealogy database.
Watching the struggles of major software vendors as they compete against one another is always intriguing. This struggle will be the same, as Microsoft struggles against Apple's iOS4 iPhone, Google's Android, and Nokia's Symbian operating systems. Microsoft apparently is prepared to spend millions of dollars advertising Windows Phone 7.
This should be interesting to watch.