Microsoft Unveils New Mobile Platform, Windows Phone 7

More than 60 mobile operators around the world will offer the devices, made by Samsung and LG Electronics, HTC and Dell, in more than 30 countries.

In a bid to claw back lost market share from the iPhone, Blackberry and devices powered by Google's Android software, Microsoft unveiled a new mobile phone operating system on Oct. 11.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the wraps off nine mobile phones powered by Windows Phone 7 (WP7) during an event held at a loft in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.

Ballmer said more than 60 mobile operators around the world will offer the devices, made by Samsung and LG Electronics, HTC and Dell, in more than 30 countries.

"We have built a different kind of a phone," Ballmer said. "We set out to build a phone that was thoroughly modern."

Ballmer said Microsoft is emphasizing personalization and customization with WP7, the first significant update to its mobile operating system in 18 months

"We focused on the things that real people really want to use," he said. "We really put our energy into bringing together the things that you love."

Smartphones powered by WP7 will run email from various services -- not just Microsoft's Hotmail -- integrate calendars, contacts and social networks and allow for documents to be viewed, edited and shared using Microsoft Office.

WP7, which represents a shift for Microsoft from the enterprise market to the consumer, will also allow users to tap into Microsoft's Zune music player platform and to access mobile versions of Xbox 360 games. Joe Belfiore, the Windows Phone corporate vice president, demonstrated how the WP7-powered phones integrate with Zune and Xbox Live. "My phone is like a giant virtual jukebox," Belfiore said. "It's a killer experience."

He said videogame publisher Electronic Arts had signed on as a WP7 gaming partner and gave a short demonstration of a popular EA title, the "Sims."

Analysts generally praised the new Microsoft platform but had doubts about its potential for success in the highly competitive smartphone market. WP7 represents a "substantial break from the past" for Microsoft, said IDC analyst William Stofega. "There is a compelling enough difference in what it does to make it interesting."

Gartner analyst Van Baker said Microsoft "will face serious challenges in improving its market share in the smartphone business." "The momentum is behind Android and (Apple's) iOS right now and I don't see Windows Phone 7 deflecting this," he added.

AT&T showed off three devices -- the Samsung Focus, the LG Quantum and the HTC 7 Surround -- that will sell for around $200 in the United States, about the same price as Apple's latest iPhone.

Another U.S. carrier, T-Mobile, will offer two WP7-powered devices in November, the HTC HD7 and the HTC Mozart.

Some of the smartphones feature touchscreens like the iPhone, while others have keyboards like the Blackberry from Research In Motion.

Though mobile makes up only one percent of Microsoft's revenue, the smartphone market is growing by around 30% a year and the software behemoth is determined to remain a player in the sector.

According to Gartner, a technology research firm, Microsoft's share of the global mobile operating system market will fall to 4.7% this year from 8.7% last year.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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