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Microsoft launches Windows Phone 7

NEW YORK -- Microsoft says it's answered the call of the iPhone and Android with Windows Phone 7, the written-from-scratch smartphone platform it introduced at a press event here this morning.

Well, the Redmond, Wash., company's executives didn't say those exact words. But the context of today's announcements -- eight months after Microsoft staged the equivalent of a Chapter 7 liquidation of its aging Windows Mobile platform, and only three months after it junked a separate smartphone attempt called Kin -- didn't need much interpretation.

winphone7_ballmer.jpg

Said chief executive Steve Ballmer as he opened the press conference: "I've been looking forward to this day... for some time, you might say."

Ballmer pitched Windows Phone 7 -- available starting Nov. 8 on three phones to be sold by AT&T for $199.99 each and one later on from T-Mobile -- as "a very different kind of a phone," focused on minimizing the time spent bouncing from one application to another.

Instead of switching among different programs. Windows Phone 7 devices will feature six "hubs" that group related functions. For example, its people hub will show everybody with whom you've recently communicated; a tap on their names will bring up shortcuts to e-mail them, text them or write on their Facebook profile. Its photos hub will group photos saved on a device and those stored on such sites as Facebook or Microsoft's Windows Live. The music and videos hub doubles as a front end to such music services as Slacker and Microsoft's Zune Pass.

Joe Belfiore, a Microsoft vice president, said the company had thousands of third-party applications available but demonstrated only four: programs from eBay, Amazon's IMDb and AT&T's U-Verse Mobile (the latter will allow any AT&T customer to watch some of that TV service's programming for $9.99 a month if they don't subscribe to the service or can't get it), plus a version of EA's "The Sims 3" game.

Windows Phone 7 will connect to Microsoft's Xbox Live gaming service and its Office productivity software. The former may help convince gamers to give this platform a shot; the latter should make office IT departments more comfortable with it. Win Phone 7's Office linkage also gives it a robust to-do list app -- a gaping hole on the iPhone and Android.

The event featured a brief display of nine Windows Phone 7 devices from Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung offering a variety of screen sizes; some included slide-out physical keyboards. Belfiore demonstrated the software's auto-correcting software; it fixed all but one typo in two lines of hurriedly typed text. A demo of a voice-search feature -- apparently confined to the phone's Bing search application -- did not go so well, failing once because of insufficient bandwidth before working in a second test.

Belfiore's demo concluded with an IOU of sorts: He said a free software update would add support for copy and paste functions in early 2011.

Now, take a note to consider the topics unaddressed in this morning's presentations: support for multitasking; battery life; support for carriers beyond AT&T and T-Mobile; how much carriers can "improve" Windows Phone 7 with their own software tweaks; whether the initial allotment of Win Phone 7 apps will include all the name-brand offerings you'd expect; how or even if you'll be able to sync a Windows Phone to a non-Windows computer or to non-Microsoft Web services.

How much do those questions concern you? What else would you like to do about Microsoft's attempt to reboot its smartphone business? Post your questions in the comments, and I'll try to get them answered later today.

By Rob Pegoraro  | October 11, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Mobile, Windows  
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Next: Close up with Windows Phone 7

Comments

After five years, I've finally escaped Windows as a smartphone platform. It would take a miracle to get me back.

Posted by: pjgeraghty | October 11, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I still like Windows Mobile 6

Posted by: hesaid | October 11, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

GPS functions? (Will these replace my Garmin?)

Posted by: TechFan | October 11, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Nothing for Verizon?

Posted by: dkp01 | October 11, 2010 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"For example, its people hub will show everybody with whom you've recently communicated; a tap on their names will bring up shortcuts to e-mail them, text them or write on their Facebook profile."

In their rush to compete with iPhone and Android, did Microsoft forget the ability to actually CALL people? Or do people still do that with phones anymore?

Posted by: db_in_va | October 11, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Rob, how will the Office software work? Will I really be able to run Office on a WP7 phone, maybe even attach a keyboard and monitor to the device? Is MS now letting Office run on a non x86 ISA? Wha, wha, what?

Posted by: mcweber | October 11, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

The core Microsoft's strategy has been centered around the idea that they can be the leaders in software technology and that their technology leadership can enable them to be major factors in all software categories. Windows Phone 7 is the do or die moment for that strategy. Microsoft has to quickly show that it can use Silverlight to create enough compelling content for Windows Phone 7 to get Microsoft at least 10% of the smart phone business. Even if Microsoft achieved parity with Android, the emergence of Android would probably still be the most significant defeat that Microsoft has ever experienced. If it turns out that Microsoft can't even make it as a serious competitor to Android, Microsoft will be in the kind of crisis that sooner or later leads to a major restructure of their business.

Posted by: dnjake | October 11, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

The windows mobile 7 platform won't catch on because MS in its infinite wisdom is charging a fair chunk of change for the OS on each phone.

So what, you might ask.

Well, the Android OS is effectively "free" for the carrier and the manufacturer providing a powerful incentive to use Android. It's popular and perceived as a good substitute for iOS (Apple) thus its hip and cool.

Against that, MS is pitching an unproven OS that costs a lot of money.

What kind of "genius" is that?

Posted by: Skeptic1 | October 11, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

I've had my iphone for almost 2 years and I've never had to cycle the power because it hung up or had an issue. Had to remove the battery from my Blackberry at least once a month to keep it sane... Don't even want to talk about how many times my laptop has needed rebooted because it hung up or had a problem. Forget it Microsoft... No way would I even consider switching to your inept product...

Posted by: Maauc | October 11, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Dead on arrival. Microsoft will never catch up to Apple or Google. And it looks so lame...

Posted by: heuristic77 | October 11, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

For me the primary use of a cell phone is to make phone calls, and that's why I finally found my way to Verizon after several years of trying the all the other major vendors. I'm sitting on the sidelines waiting for Verizon to work its deal so they can offer smarter phones. It may be a long wait. Meanwhile where ever I go I always have phone coverage. I cannot do that with Sprint, T-Mobile or AT&T.

Posted by: centrum72 | October 11, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I am in 100% agreement with centrum72.

Posted by: ouvan59 | October 11, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

A very stupid move by Microsoft -- why would any of the Smartphone manufacturers keep the Windows Mobile platform now that they are direct competitors...

Posted by: siris | October 12, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

"Win Phone 7's Office linkage also gives it a robust to-do list app -- a gaping hole on the iPhone and Android"

I just wanted to follow-up on this comment - wondered if you had heard something new that I missed. From what I understand, Win Phone 7 will not sync with outlook tasks at all - lots of cranky people in the WP7 backstage forum because of that.

Can you clarify? Thanks

Posted by: vnint | October 12, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

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