We’ve had a chance to use a Windows Phone 7 device for a couple of days in advance of its launch later this month. In particular we wanted to see how well it works with BPOS. One of the big selling points of BPOS is the ability to access your email from a variety of mobile devices, without the cost and inconvenience of buying and configuring servers. At the moment I have an iPhone 3GS that I use with BPOS. Before that I used a Windows Mobile 6.1 phone and we’ve set up clients to connect to their BPOS accounts with Android, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson and Nokia devices. All these devices will give you access to your email, contacts and calendars stored on BPOS, however I’ve found that the non-Microsoft devices all have their small annoyances and missing features. For all of its other problems the Exchange integration I had on my Windows Mobile 6.1 device has yet to be bettered. Windows Phone 7 promises to keep the best features of Exchange integration, while at the same time being a complete refresh of the operating system and user interface.
Connecting your Windows Phone 7 to BPOS is relatively straightforward. When first setting up the device (or later through the Settings menu) add an Outlook account. It will first prompt you for just your email address and password, but unfortunately it is not smart enough to figure out the settings just based on this. After telling you that it cannot find the settings it will next ask you for a username and domain. The username should also be your email address and the domain should be left blank. Try to sign in again and it will tell you once more that the settings cannot be found. This time you can click the Advanced button and you will now have a place to enter the server name. The server to use depends on which region you are in and will be one of the following (note that you must use https:// before the address):
Once you get over this initial setup all your email, contacts and calendar entries will be imported and you are ready to go. The one other thing you will want to set up is SharePoint. The Office hub in Windows Phone 7 has a lot of SharePoint integration, however it is targeted at SharePoint 2010. BPOS will be upgraded to SharePoint 2010 shortly but for now the only way I found to access the BPOS SharePoint site was through Internet Explorer. You can add a favourite to Internet Explorer to access your SharePoint site, it will prompt you again for your username and password which will then be saved. SharePoint works satisfactorily through the browser (as it does on my iPhone) but hopefully it can be accessed through the Office hub shortly.
I think Microsoft need to improve the process for adding a BPOS account so that you only need to enter your email address and password once and it will configure everything for you including SharePoint in a similar way to the Single Sign On tool for the desktop.
There’s a lot more to Windows Phone 7 that I’m only getting started with. One of my favourite features is the new mobile version of OneNote which will synchronize a notebook between the phone and your Windows Live account or a SharePoint site.
The new UI of the Windows Phone 7 is something completely new and will divide peoples opinion. Personally I think it is the best mobile UI I have used. There are some features missing at the moment, most notably copy and paste, but it is promised that Microsoft will update the OS regularly to add these. If your company uses BPOS or its own Exchange servers I believe that Windows Phone 7 is the best mobile OS for accessing this information from your phone.