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Summary:

Microsoft is trying to carve out its own territory with Windows Phone 7, positioning it as a different phone that aims to be deeply personal for users. The new platform launches Nov. 8 in the U.S., but will it help Microsoft regain relevance in smartphones?

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Microsoft today showed off its revamped mobile operating system: a fresh take that won’t get mistaken for the competition. Windows Phone 7, which Microsoft showed off for the first time today, is certainly different, and that’s a good thing.

Showing up late to the smartphone game meant Microsoft couldn’t just do a me-too product, and it couldn’t repeat the past sins of Windows Mobile, whose appeal was limited to corporate users, pro-sumers and a smattering of consumers. To its credit, Microsoft has thrown out the old playbook and is now working to carve out its own territory in the smartphone competition with Windows Phone 7, positioning it as a very different modern phone that aims to be “delightful,” personal and very connected.

The new platform, launching Nov. 8 in the U.S., is Microsoft’s attempt at regaining relevance and broad appeal in the wildly competitive smartphone market, which has passed the company by with phones from Apple and Google leading the way.

“We’ve focused on the way real people really want to use their phones on the go,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at a launch event in New York. “We want to let you get in, get out and back to your life and have that be as fast and as simple as humanly possible.”

The platform does look distinctively different, with its collection of tiles and hubs. With its many connections to web services, and support for its own products and other online services, Microsoft has created a phone that’s trying to be unique while incorporating a lot of what’s already been working with competing devices.

Ballmer said there will be nine phones available running Windows Phone 7, including models from Samsung, LG, HTC and Dell. The phones will work on 60 carriers in 30 countries around the world. AT&T and T-Mobile will launch Windows Phones this year and Sprint and Verizon are on tap for next year.

Ralph de la Vega, AT&T’s CEO of mobility and consumer markets, highlighted three phones, the LG Quantum, the Samsung Focus and the HTC Surround, which will sell for $199.99 each. T-Mobile also announced two WP7 phones: the HTC HD7 and the Dell Venue Pro.

Much of what Microsoft talked about has been previewed at some point, but Ballmer and executives worked to show off the details of the phone, playing up how much thought has gone into the different features and how well the phones connect to Internet services and existing Microsoft apps.

In the Pictures Hub, there’s a quick way to upload pictures to Facebook and other online services, which can be set up to receive all the pictures you shoot. The Pictures Hub also allows you to see all recently uploaded pictures from friends from their various online services.

The People Hub allows you to post directly to a contact’s Facebook page or see all their recent social networking activity. You can also have your to-do notes in the Office Hub synced to One Note online. The Music Hub connects to Slacker and iheartradio as well as a  Zune Pass account, so you can pull up new music at any time.

Event invitations alert you to conflicts on your schedule, which can be automatically pulled from Exchange, Hotmail, Google or Yahoo. The search button can pull up local results, but also reveals news and web results as well. Users can do voice searches with one click calling up information like airline flight data. The Games Hub connects users to Xbox Live, allowing them to share their achievements and gamer score and create avatars. There’s also an AT&T U-Verse Mobile app so U-Verse customers can watch some of their programming from their phone.

This is Microsoft’s best chance at getting into the smartphone game, and they’ve done a good job creating something that looks and feels distinct. We still need to put the phones through their paces but the basic building blocks are there. A lot will depend on how much developer support Windows Phone 7 gets, how fast the phones will spread from launch partners AT&T and T-Mobile to other carriers like Verizon and Sprint. And I think Microsoft will also have to spend a lot of money to get its message out there, especially with so much awareness now of iPhone and Android devices.

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  1. I don’t know whether or not they will catch up their competitors but Windows Phone 7 is different and do look very very very nice!!! Good luck MS on this one.

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  2. Only 1 model from LG for Mexico. Very Sad… No competecny high prices next month…

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  3. I tried the WinPho7 noodle at Mobilize two weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised. By throwing out the old and starting fresh, Microsoft was able to catch up in the smartphone horse race. The screens were intuitive, quick, colorful and modern.

    Better or worse than iPhone or Android? I guess slightly worse, but really it’s irrelevant. By offering something different, as the article says, they have a shot at attracting some portion of the consumer market.

    But the shame is that they did not put in the functionality that their existing user base, IT managers, seek for corporate policy control and security. A real slam dunk for MSFT will be if they can marry the consumer front end with an IT back end in one phone. In so doing, they would squeeze RIM card, and beat out Apple and Google in the vast market segment of regular people whose phones are provided by the IT dept. Those people want a fun phone, but the boss wants security.

    MSFT needs to update the software and offer the reverse mullet: party in the front, business in the back.

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    1. The boss wants security? Turns out that when presented with a killer device like the iPhone, concerns over security go the window (even, if not especially, for the boss).

      It’s called the consumerization of IT and Microsoft is simply recognizing a well-established trend its competition has been riding.

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      1. Well, that kinda was my whole point.

        The first device that successfully:
        1) satisfies (not even delights, JUST satisfies) people as individual consumers, AND;
        2) satisfies enterprise IT,
        …will have tremendous market opportunity.

        I suppose I over-simplified when I said
        “the boss that wants security” — it’s the IT manager and the CIO/CTO that want security and policy management. The boss wants as cool a phone as that other dad on his kids baseball team, and he’ll go and expense his own if the IT dept doesn’t.

        MSFT needs to enable the IT Manager to provide a “fun enough phone” to the boss. If that phone also has back-end enterprise features, they’ll have a winner.

        MSFT needs to hustle, Motorola has released a version of their Droid line that looks like a Blackberry, but runs Android with all its apps, and has enterprise policy management built-in. The fact is that people are going to out-flank the IT dept, and carry just one phone, merging consumer and IT usage into one device. No device is a winner in this category, yet.

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  4. [...] for a redesign — As I watched the live-stream of the Windows Phone 7 event, I was taken by the design thought put into the new platform; something I can’t recall ever saying about Microsoft’s earlier attempts at mobile. The [...]

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  5. LOL, gotta love these pathetic attempts at hyping this garbage cellphone OS.

    These types of inane articles are great to bookmark and come back and read a year from now when this latest turd from Microsoft’s E&D clowns is dead in the market.

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    1. Are you going to back that up with any kind of substantive argument, or just empty jibes?

      Have you tried the phone? Analysed it? Reviewed it? Do you have access to some inside information?

      I expected pure crap from the MSFT mobile team, especially after the Kin. But I have tried this phone. It is much better than you give it credit for. It may fail, but it won’t be because of your expert insight!

      Actual threats include:
      – may be less pleasing mass-market UI than iPhone
      – expensive relative to free Android
      – less mature than Apple and Google
      – fewer eng. resources than the open Android
      – relative lack of OEM support
      – lack of developer support

      If you had cited one of those, you would have made what analysts can an actual argument. If you bookmark this, and come back in a year, and are proven right…how will you possibly be able to claim credit? Even a terrible billiards player puts a ball in a pocket once in a while. You have to call your shots for it to be talent.

      My dear Kathy, no business venture is a slam-dunk. There are risks out there. I applaud those that make a decent attempt and put their asses on the line. You do not. In this instance, MSFT has punted a decent alternative, and the market will decide.

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  6. Text me when they finally get rid of the black bar that runs along the entire right side of the screen; with a phone like the HD7, that black space is going to look ginormous. What a shame.

    Also, hello bezel!

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  7. [...] Windows Phone 7 is still waiting to go on sale starting Nov. 8 after a showy launch yesterday in New York. The new platform has a long ways to go in a hyper-competitive market and there is no guarantee that [...]

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  8. [...] be Microsoft’s (MSFT) best chance at making a serious dent in the smartphone market, Ryan Kim writes at GigaOm. “They’ve done a good job creating something that looks and feels [...]

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  9. Sorry, but these phones are for and have been for Microsofties. And while I have not considered myself a Microsoftie, I have been using this platform for a very long time. It’s been a good platform overall, very consistent as usage is always second nature from phone to phone, OS to OS. But, we have always made mention of the fact that we were unable to upgrade our phones(computers) and will not be able to do so this go round as well. And I am sorry to say that this is the last straw for us Microsofties. We have been waiting for an OS that runs on a computer with a phone attached to it, and instead now have another phone with the OS attached. Half a grand once a year to keep up with the phone technology and OS releases is outrageous for anyone, and I won’t continue to be burdened by this business practice. They have gone down the wrong path once again, and I just wonder what these geniuses have been doing with all the time they spend at so called work. Clueless and soon to be marketless.

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  10. [...] are hearing of the promise of Windows Phone 7 and may be convinced that Microsoft is finally serious about competing in smartphones again. We’ll have to see if this intent turns into actual development plans but it’s got to [...]

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