NEW YORK-Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7, its latest attempt to regain market share in smartphones, with a colorful New York City event Oct. 11. Windows Phone 7 will debut in the United States in November, on nine different devices from manufacturers such as Dell, LG Electronics and Samsung.
As with Windows 7, whose success Microsoft doubtlessly hopes Windows Phone 7 will emulate in the mobile market, Microsoft decided to host the launch in a West Side loft whose stark lines and everything-white interior were meant to convey a hip, vaguely bohemian vibe.
Unlike Google Android devices and the Apple iPhone, which offer gridlike screens of individual apps, Windows Phone 7's user interface aggregates Web content and apps into six subject-specific "Hubs" such as "People" and "Games." Microsoft has been encouraging developers to build for its new platform, hoping to grow an online storefront capable of competing with Apple's App Store and similar competitors.
"I've been looking forward to this day for some time," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told media and analysts gathered for the New York City event. "We focused in on the way real people really want to use their phones when they're on the go. We want you to get in, out and back to life."
Ballmer added: "We set out to build a phone that was thoroughly modern ... modern in the hardware we use, modern in its design principles." Microsoft is also betting that tight integration with Office features, games and apps will attract users.
At several events over the past year, Ballmer had acknowledged his company had lost ground in the mobile market. Although the Windows Mobile franchise made some early gains in that market, particularly among business users, its user base has gradually decayed over the past several quarters. The company's previous mobile update, Mobile 6.5, failed to halt the decline.
"We were ahead of the game, and now we find ourselves No. 5 in the market," Ballmer told an audience during the D8 conference in June.
Microsoft's plans for regaining that lost ground include a massive marketing campaign, estimated at $400 million by Deutsche Bank analyst Jonathan Goldberg, and an initial launch of nine devices in November. At launch, Windows Phone 7 will be available only on GSM-based networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile; however, the smartphone platform will appear on Verizon in early 2011.
AT&T will debut three devices in November, with the Samsung Focus launching Nov. 8. Microsoft has imposed fairly strict hardware requirements on its manufacturing partners, dictating that all devices feature three mechanical buttons and a "pane of glass" form factor.