Windows Phone 7: Microsoft explains and expands hubs

Microsoft has detailed more information about how hubs will work in Windows Phone 7, its new mobile phone operating system, to Pocket-lint in a one-to-one briefing.

When the new OS was first announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona back in February, Microsoft implied that Windows Phone 7 would feature just seven hubs; Pictures, People, Browsing, Games, Music, Marketplace and Office - all available to users of the new OS.

But now, it seems, the company has changed its tack, ever so slightly, suggesting that developers will be able to create their own hubs above and beyond either an embedded app, or a standalone one.

"Say you had a collection of Pac-man apps", Greg Sullivan, senior product manager for Microsoft explained to Pocket-lint. "As a developer, you could create a hub that housed a range of Pac-man apps altogether in one area".

The idea behind the hub ethos is that, rather than just have folders or a grid offering, as found on the iPhone, Symbian or any phone from the last decade, Microsoft is opting for a very different approach, which it refers to as Panoramic tiles.

These panoramic tiles, first seen in the Zune HD released in 2009, are pages that are wider or taller than the screen real estate available, but are accessed by swishing your finger around them revealing new information as you do.

Based on this design approach, the phone has been split into a number of key hubs as standard to help you find apps quickly.

Although Microsoft hasn't confirmed this, you can see that the hubs will be an excellent way of allowing operators or manufacturers to customise the handset, and give them some individuality.

Vodafone, for example, could have a hub that allows you to check your bills, contact customer support, access a dedicated app or music store as well as track its Twitter feed. While a manufacturer like HTC could use a hub to offer further integration above and beyond those offered as standard, very much like it does with its Sense UI offering on Android and Windows Mobile.

It looks like the incredibly rigid OS does have some flexibility after all.