Windows Phone 7 Gets Nov. 8 Release


Ten years after its initial foray into the mobile web, software giant Microsoft (Stock Quote: MSFT) is looking to Control-Alt-Delete its stalled efforts and restart its presence in the lucrative global smartphone market. Mirroring the release of Windows 7, which aimed to fix the many reported problems with Windows Vista, the Windows Phone 7 starts from scratch to make it everything that Windows Mobile is not.

The platform, set to be released on five smartphones in the U.S. on Nov. 8, takes advantage of Microsoft’s suite of products to offer an integrated multimedia experience through different “hubs.” Zune technology powers the media player, offering a media collection synced with the one on users’ home computer; Office applications like Word and Excel allow easy editing of documents and spreadsheets, right on the phone; Xbox gamers can use Xbox LIVE to connect to their accounts and play games with friends and strangers through the Web.

New to the mobile OS world is the “People” hub that combines the common contact information you find in your phone’s address book with that person’s social media accounts. You go to the same place to find out what a person’s phone number or birthday is as you do to check their Facebook page or LinkedIn updates.

In its press release announcing handsets and carriers for the new platform, Microsoft explained the philosophy behind the system. “In today’s busy world we are spending more time heads-down on our phones than interacting with the people we’re sitting next to and missing out on important life moments,” it said.

By integrating these actions instead of keeping them walled off in separate applications as on the Android and iPhone operating systems, Microsoft hopes to position the Windows Phone 7 as something you have to only glance at to get the information you need. Indeed, the home screen consists of a number of “tiles” that give information from different hubs. You can see how many unread emails, social media updates, or text messages you have waiting for you without opening a single app.

Perhaps one of the most exciting features of the phone is the ability to snap a picture while the phone is in locked mode. Anyone who has ever missed a great shot because they had to unlock, enter passcode, and then open a camera app and wait for it to launch will appreciate such a no-brainer improvement.

For now, though, only AT&T (Stock Quote: T) and T-Mobile (Stock Quote: DT) customers will be able to access the new technology, which will be present on the HTC Surround, Samsung Focus and LG Quantum handsets with AT&T, and HTC HD7 and Dell Venue Pro phones with T-Mobile.

Microsoft is hoping that it can capitalize on the fluid state of the global smartphone market. While Apple’s (Stock Quote: AAPL) iPhone quickly led out of the gates, it has lost market share to the increasingly popular Android operating system developed by Google (Stock Quote: GOOG).

In its press release, the company sees plenty of room in the market for a new contender, explaining that “the new phone approach is critical to Microsoft’s efforts to make new gains in the huge smartphone market, which despite the success of the iPhone and Android is still relatively untapped globally.”

Windows fans around the world will surely hope that’s true, except maybe those who use the current Windows Mobile version 6.5. They will need to buy a new phone. There will be no upgrades.

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