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Windows Phone 7 Lands Next Week: What You Need To Know

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 (s msft) CEO Steve Ballmer will be joined by AT&T (s 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 (s 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 (s goog) 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 (s aapl) 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 (s adbe) 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 (s vz) 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 (s s), the other main CDMA carrier here has not publicly committed to any new Microsoft devices.

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15 Responses to “Windows Phone 7 Lands Next Week: What You Need To Know”

  1. That interface is going to get very annoying, very quickly.

    It looks like is made to attract attention, not for use 24/7.

    I predict a, make that another, fail for MSFT.

  2. Henry Tsau

    It gets scary to see the similarities between Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft’s ill-fated Kin phones.

    Both have a similar tiled interface. Both are missing vital features. Both had the same Twitter problems of not being able to Tweet a photo or send a URL.

    Nobody can seriously consider Windows Phone 7 for business or office work while basic OS functionality like Copy/Paste is missing. It can’t do text!

    3rd party business apps are still unable to access the Personal Information Manager (PIM), and there is no tethering for business people on the road who want to get internet access to their laptops. It doesn’t work.

    On the gaming side, apps still cannot access the GPU shaders. In its current state, I cannot see Windows Phone 7 being of any interest to hardcore gamers.

    Because of missing APIs, third party apps will not be able to access hardware features like Compass, Accelerometer or Video Camera. Those are compulsory hardware features on every handset, so it is a serious shortcoming that apps cannot use them.

    Microsoft needs a few more years to fix these problems.

  3. It lacks a number of now basic smartphone features (including, somehow, cut/paste) and it’s vaunted Metro UI is nothing more than a bunch of Android-like notification widgets. Let’s hope for Balmer’s sake that there are enough teens and young professionals with the the time, interest and money to spend on a xbox handheld. Microsoft’s new motto: “Yes we Kin!”

  4. In my case, I switched over to blackberry after my htc diamond with win 6.5
    This was not a device/os to work with, everything was slow
    Not sure if I can switch back to win7 but quite excited to see it

  5. IMO, Android beats iPhone in two aspects: home screen widgets and more hardware selection. WM7 does both of these, and compared to the iPhone does a lot more.

    When WM7 gets onto multiple carriers, it’ll definitely be a force to reckon with.

    My prediction is that WM8 will be the #1 platform, iOS will be #2, and Android will be strong only in low-end, cheaper smartphones.

  6. It definitely has some interesting ideas. If it didn’t have to go up against Android and the iPhone, it could succeed. Even with that burden, it may shake things up some.