Microsoft is holding an all-day press event in New York City on Oct. 11 to introduce its new Windows Phone 7 smartphone platform. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will be joined by AT&T CEO Ralph de la Vega for a morning keynote, with the remainder of the day allotted to an open house to try new Windows Phone 7 devices. T-Mobile will reportedly be a part of the event, although not until later in the day, says Engadget. After a few years of losing market share with its Windows Mobile platform, Microsoft developed Windows Phone 7 as its effort to re-establish itself in the hotly contested smartphone market. Now that we have the platform launch confirmed from our press invite, here’s a recap of what you need to know about Windows Phone 7:
A New User Interface. Say goodbye to the Windows-like, multi-level menu system and say hello to the Metro user interface. Windows Phone 7 utilizes touch-friendly tiles (read: no stylus needed) and hubs that expand to make excellent use of a smartphone’s limited display. The interface borrows heavily from Microsoft’s ZuneHD music player and provides for quick navigation as shown in this demonstration video. The home screen tiles are constantly updated to show important information at a quick glance, much like widgets on other phone platforms.
Who’s Building the Hardware? LG, Samsung, Dell, Asus and HTC are all confirmed hardware partners, although it’s not yet clear if all of them will have phones for next week’s launch. The most likely candidates for the initial launch are Samsung, LG and possibly HTC, which has long been a builder of Microsoft handsets. Microsoft is reluctant to allow user interface customizations on Windows Phone 7, so don’t expect to see HTC Sense, a custom UI, on the new phones. Interestingly, every one of the initial hardware partners also sells Google Android devices: the most successful being Samsung with several million sales of its Galaxy S handset. Expect high-resolution, multi-touch displays paired with speedy processors that will help Windows Phone 7 devices compete with current smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone 4 and various Android handsets.
Games and Music. Windows Phone 7 integrates with both Microsoft’s Xbox Live and Zune services. Users will be able to view, share and modify their Xbox Live avatar, achievements and profile. More than 50 Xbox Live titles will be available for the small screen by the holidays, including Uno, Halo: Waypoint, and Guitar Hero 5, just to name a few. Multiplayer gaming will also be supported. Fans of the Zune subscription service will have unlimited access to over 6 million tracks in the Zune music library. The $15 monthly Zune Pass subscription also includes 10 monthly downloads to expand personal music collections.
Browsing the Web. Unlike most other smartphones that today use a WebKit browser, Windows Phone 7 will run a modified version of Internet Explorer. Tabbed browsing is a feature and tabs will load in the background, allowing for quickly browsing multiple web pages. Support for Adobe Flash won’t appear at launch, although Adobe has said to expect it in the future. As a result, tapping a YouTube video in the browser will open the YouTube application. Early video tests comparing Microsoft’s new mobile browser to an iPhone and Nexus One shows excellent performance, speedy web page rendering and a positive multi-touch experience.
Carriers. In the U.S., Microsoft’s new phone will initially be available for GSM networks, meaning AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon Wireless has invested heavily in Google Android devices to combat the lack of an Apple iPhone in its portfolio, and will not be part of the initial Windows Phone 7 launch event. The CDMA carrier has said it will likely offer phones running Microsoft’s new platform in 2011. Sprint, the other main CDMA carrier here has not publicly committed to any new Microsoft devices.
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