Microsoft offers 'smart design' with Windows Phone 7 refresh

Microsoft said its new Windows Phone 7 platform will provide smartphone users with a unique mobile experience, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the "differences are as much about what you're going to do with the phone as with how you're going to do it."

Click here for a video of Windows Phone 7At a launch event in New York City, Ballmer and Microsoft's partners showcased the new platform, which many analysts see as the company's last, best effort to try and regain relevance in the smartphone market--where it has stumbled against Google's Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS.

Microsoft's platform will be available in 30 countries via 60 different mobile operators, Ballmer said, giving the company global reach. AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA initially will launch the platform in the United States. Ballmer said a key focus of the platform is to allow users to get "in, out and back to life."

Central to the Windows Phone 7 experience are "hubs," which integrate related content from the Web, applications and services. The phone's Start screen contains several customizable tiles, which can be linked to hubs. Microsoft has dedicated hubs for categories such as People, Music and video, Photos, Games and Office. Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone program management, gave an in-depth demonstration of the platform and highlighted what said is Microsoft's focus on"smart design."

For example, he said, users can set their camera applications so that pictures are automatically uploaded to the cloud. Additionally, he said, Outlook meeting requests automatically show time conflicts and allow users to quickly send a message back to others about meeting conflicts and when they will be late, which could be a nice touch for enterprise users.

Further, Microsoft confirmed copy and paste functionality will be available via an upgrade to the platform starting next year.

Microsoft also is working with its carrier partners on apps. AT&T announced the launch of U-verse Mobile for Windows Phone 7 devices. Beginning in November, the company's  U-verse TV Mobile app will be preloaded so that any AT&T wireless customer with a Windows Phone 7 device can download and watch TV shows for $9.99 per month.

Additionally, T-Mobile will pre-install a series of entertainment applications on one of its Windows devices, the HTD HD7. The most notable app is T-Mobile TV, which offers live and on-demand programming from broadcasters including ABC, Fox, PBS and Azteca America; mobile broadcast solutions provider MobiTV will power the subscription-based service, priced at $9.99.

For more:
- see this WSJ live blog (sub. req.)
- see this I4U News article
- see this Microsoft release
- see this AT&T release

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