Microsoft announced the Windows Phone 7 OS for handheld devices on Monday, taking a step forward in the company's efforts to strengthen its position in the still-growing smartphone market. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the first phones to run the OS, and named the network operators that will distribute them.
"We wanted the Windows Phone to be delightful across a range of hardware devices, through a range of scenarios, and a [range] of different software experiences," Ballmer said.
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The company wanted to make Phone 7 "always delightful" and "wonderfully mine," he said, emphasizing the way that users will be able to customize the user interface. "Everyone should look at the phone and represent themselves on the device," he said.
Microsoft has already owned up to one curious omission from the first release of Windows Phone 7. The OS lacks copy and paste functions: Microsoft plans to add them in the first update, due for release next year. Apple drew heavy criticism for leaving those same functions out of the first few versions of its iPhone software.
The company has partnered with many phone makers and wireless carriers to bring Windows Phone 7 handsets to consumers in early November, Ballmer said at the OS launch event in New York City.
Sixty mobile operators will be offering it in 30 countries, Ballmer said.
The operators include América Móvil, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Movistar, O2, Orange, SFR, SingTel, Telstra, Telus, T-Mobile USA and Vodafone.
Nine different phones, from HTC, Dell, Samsung and LG Electronics, will be available in the U.S. in November.
The phones will be able to take video, access social media applications, gaming and access streaming movies and TV shows, Ballmer said.
In Europe, Orange plans to launch three Windows Phone 7 devices. The HTC 7 Mozart, which will be exclusive to Orange, will be available in France, the U.K., Spain, Poland, Switzerland, Romania, Portugal and Austria. The Samsung Omnia will be available in France, the U.K. and Switzerland, with the LG Optimus 7 available in France about six weeks ahead of other operators, Microsoft said. The phones will be available first in the U.K. and France.
T-Mobile said it will distribute the HTC HD7 in the U.S. in mid-November, in time for the year-end holiday shopping season. The phone has a 4.3-inch touchscreen display and has includes Netflix, T-Mobile TV, Xbox LIVE and Zune software. AT&T will be launching Samsung's Focus smartphone on Nov. 8 in the U.S.
Windows Phone 7 is a totally revamped operating system, designed by Microsoft to better compete with new rivals in the mobile market such as Apple and Google. The operating system was a long time in the making. Apple's iPhone launched in early 2007 and by the end of that first year it had outsold all Windows Mobile devices in the U.S., according to researchers at Canalys. Microsoft released the stopgap Windows Mobile 6.5 in 2009, but it failed to reverse Microsoft's slide in the mobile market.
The new operating system tries to differentiate itself from rival OSes by categorizing applications, services and Web content under hubs, which helps provide related information in a single view. The people hub, for example, aggregates phone calls, text messages, social media feeds and Outlook e-mail messages in a single view. The information is updated in real-time and users don't have to go through multiple applications to view the related information.
The games hub will host games from the Xbox Live online gaming service.