Windows Phone 7 Launches on ATandT and T-Mobile
Microsoft officially launched its Hail Mary pass in the U.S. smartphone market Nov. 8, with the release of Windows Phone 7 on AT&T and T-Mobile. The software company hopes the new line of smartphones will retake market share lost over the past several quarters to the likes of the Apple iPhone and Google Android.
AT&T is offering the Samsung Focus and HTC Surround for $199 with a two-year contract. T-Mobile's first Windows Phone 7 device, the HTC HD7, retails for the same price with data plan.
Windows Phone 7 relies on six subject-specific "Hubs," such as "People" and "Games," as opposed to the iPhone's or Android's grid-like screens of individual apps. Microsoft has also imposed fairly strict hardware requirements on its manufacturing partners, dictating that all devices feature three mechanical buttons, a 1GHz processor and a generously sized touch screen. Those manufacturers, in turn, tweaked that basic design with their own hardware editions: the HTC Surround features a slide-out speaker and kickstand, while the Samsung Focus boasts a slimmer body.
Windows Phone 7's availability is restricted to GSM-based networks such as AT&T and T-Mobile until early 2011, when the smartphones are slated to appear on Verizon. As to be expected, Microsoft's massive marketing campaign has kicked off with a series of television ads; while the company is unlikely to offer an official price tag for the promotional push, Deutsche Bank analyst Jonathan Goldberg estimated in August that it would spend close to $400 million.
Early reports hint at strong sales for Windows Phone 7 in international markets, with DigiTimes reporting in a Nov. 3 article that sales of the HTC-built Windows Phone 7 smartphones are "better than expected" in Europe and Australia. German stores had apparently sold out their HTC HD 7 and HTC 7 Mozart stocks.
"Early supporters of the new operating system such as South Korea's Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are also experiencing rising demand from carriers," the article suggested, sourcing its information as unnamed "Taiwan-based handset makers."
Microsoft executives, including CEO Steve Ballmer, indicate the company will continue to pour resources into its smartphone platform. Given the tech industry's paradigm shift toward mobile, it has little other choice; and bestselling Windows Phone 7 devices could help reverse the perception that Microsoft's lagging badly behind Apple and Google in that particular area.
"Microsoft ends up getting a lot of flak for not being quick enough to market, and while that's a fair criticism in certain situations, that doesn't make it a dying brand," Arpan Shah, Microsoft's director for SharePoint, wrote in a Nov. 4 posting on his corporate blog. He also cited Windows 7, Internet Explorer Beta, Bing and Kinect as other examples of Microsoft making its presence felt in the consumer arena.