Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer said the words “mine” and “my” about two dozen times in two minutes when he took the stage this morning to officially unveil the company’s Windows 7 Phone at a press conference in New York. The smartphone operating system was built with two themes in mind, illustrated by a directive to partners LG (SEO: 066570), HTC, and Samung to make the devices feel “wonderfully mine” and “always delightful.” The new OS is launching on nine phones in more than 30 countries.
Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of mobility for AT&T (NYSE: T), then took over to introduce his company’s various Windows Phone 7 features that will run on the three partner device makers. As part of a deal with AT&T, Microsoft will bring the carrier’s U-verse TV service to all its phones. It will be available to Windows Phone 7 users, whether they’re AT&T subscribers or not (for an unspecified monthly fee).
The smartphones in the system will also come loaded with Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX) as well as Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) games, including The Sims, at launch.
Some of the features of Window 7 Phones that Microsoft execs highlighted:
— A customizable start screen with “Live Tiles,” which are set with real-time updates where users can plug in news, appointments or the status of friends.
— Comes with all the existing Microsoft tools PC owners are used to, including Xbox LIVE, Zune, Windows Live, Bing and Microsoft Office Mobile (with Powerpoint and Word).
— The mobile version of OneNote lets users create and organize quick jottings and stores it on the cloud for access on the phone or PC. The ability to “cut and paste” text will come early next year.
— Users can create an “avatar” that represents you on your phone when you use Xbox and other social media features.
The many touchscreen aspects of the Window 7 Phones would be very familiar to Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Android and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) iPhone owners. Ballmer seemed to acknowledge that there was nothing new here as he spoke about making it easy for everyone else to use. Despite the dominance of iPhone and Android in the smartphone arena, there’s still a big world out there.
Microsoft has taken a bold step with the Windows 7 Phone suite. First, the company threw out their old OS, and replaced it with something that doesn’t look like Android or the iPhone. BlackBerry and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) are stuck upgrading old platforms that don’t easily support high-end devices like full web browsers and touchscreens.
But it’s still a gamble and despite the demonstration over the past 45 minutes, there are a lot key questions that will have to be answered:
— Community: How many apps will Microsoft have? How many developers have decided to support the platform? How many handset makers are building handsets based on the OS? People will be very critical of this because it is a way to gauge how people will think the OS will perform.
— Kickbacks: How much money is Microsoft kicking back to developers to ensure they make apps, how much money are they throwing at advertising campaigns, or to the carriers?
— Other sources of revenue: They probably won’t get to this, but how will Microsoft make money on all the integrated services, like Bing, Xbox and Zune? There’s got to be a bigger opportunity than just the revenue they collect from each device sold.