So what is it actually like? Well, it’s a lot like the Zune HD. In fact — it’s just like the Zune HD… but more. Microsoft says it’s drawn on its Zune and Windows Media Center UI concepts and come up with something it calls “Metro.” A typographic and motion heavy interface based on primary colors and lots of minimal, negative space. Whatever you call it, however, it should be very familiar to anyone who’s ever glanced at a Zune HD, because it incorporates all those weird interface tweaks that made it so distinct, such as large, bold text that trails off the screen, menus which move dimensionally in and out instead of just side to side, and the sense that you’re panning over long, single pages of information, rather than a set of separate panels. Another way Microsoft refers to the look is “chromeless,” which can best be witnessed in the clean, sharp “tiles” which dominate the home screen, completely lacking in any real world-inspired bevels, drop shadows, curves or textures, or the Tron-like calendar app, dialer, and alphabetical contact search grid, which look like they’ve been built out of spare parts from Tempest.
As a current Zune HD owner who’s sat there staring at the thing thinking.. “this would make a really great phone..” I’m looking forward to this falls offerings. The key question in my mind is – how successful will Microsoft be at restricting cellular providers? I have no doubt manufacturers like HTC will step up to the task and do great things, but carriers can destroy a really good phone through crappy corporate business decisions so fast it’ll make your head spin. Time will tell.