Microsoft officially took the wraps off its long-awaited Windows Phone 7 mobile platform, and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer promised to deliver "a different kind of a phone."
At a launch event in New York City, the company unveiled around nine phones for its new platform, which it hopes will catapult it back into prominence in the smartphone market. At launch, Microsoft is partnering with AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and T-Mobile USA and is banking on phones from Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung to showcase the new operating system.
Ballmer said Microsoft wanted to make sure the phones are "thoroughly modern, in the hardware, modern in its design principles" and embrace "what people to do today with Internet services and the like."
AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega also was at the event and called Windows Phone a "breakthrough smartphone experience." AT&T is launching three Windows devices this fall. AT&T's first Windows Phone device will be the Samsung Focus, which it will launch for $199.99 Nov. 8. The Focus has a 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED screen, 5-megapixel camera and 1 GHz Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processor.
AT&T also will offer the HTC Surround, which features a 3.8-inch touchscreen display and integrated Dolby Mobile and SRS surround sound speakers that slide out and reveal a kickstand. Additionally, AT&T will offer the LG Quantum, which has a full Qwerty keyboard as well as DLNA technology through a preloaded application called Play To, which allows users to wirelessly stream videos, music and pictures from the phone to DLNA-enabled TVs, stereos, Windows 7 PCs and other consumer electronics devices. Both phones will be available for $199.99 later in the fall.
T-Mobile also will jump on the Windows Phone bandwagon. The nation's No. 4 carrier is launching two Windows devices. One is the HTC HD7, which features 4.3-inch capacitive screen with built-in kickstand and a Snapdragon processor. T-Mobile said the phone will be available later this fall (it did not reveal pricing), and also said it will be pre-loaded with several entertainment applications, including Netflix and T-Mobile TV, which will offer consumers access to live and on-demand TV, including free programming from ABC News NOW, FOX Sports, PBS Kids, Azteca America and other content. See related article in FierceMobileContent.
Additionally, T-Mobile will offer the Dell Venue Pro, which has a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, a 4.1-inch touchscreen, a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, and a 5-megapixel camera. The Venue Pro will be available in time for the holidays.
Interestingly, Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) also is on tap for at least one Windows Phone 7 device. HTC said the nation's No. 3 carrier will sell the HTC 7 Pro sometime in the first half of next year.
Indeed, the only Tier 1 U.S. wireless carrier missing from today's news was Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), the nation's largest wireless carrier. Verizon recently discontinued the failed Microsoft Kin social networking phone, but has said it will probably launch a Windows Phone 7 device sometime in 2011.
Microsoft has a great deal riding on the success of the platform. Indeed, Google's Android platform and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS have eclipsed Microsoft's old Windows Mobile platform in the white-hot smartphone market, and Microsoft has a lot of ground to cover to catch up. According to research firm Gartner, Android had 17.2 percent of the smartphone market in the second quarter, and Apple had 14.2 percent. Windows Mobile captured 5 percent of the market, down from 9.3 percent in the second quarter of 2009.
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