Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Will Start Exclusive to ATandT: Report

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 will launch in early November with AT&T as its exclusive U.S. carrier, according to a Wall Street Journal report, presumably before expanding to other carriers.

Microsoft and AT&T will release a set of Windows Phone 7 smartphones through the carrier in early November, according to a Sept. 30 report in The Wall Street Journal. That would follow the smartphone platform's widely expected October launch.

According to the Journal, AT&T will be the "initial exclusive U.S. carrier" for Windows Phone 7, releasing three devices manufactured by HTC, Samsung and LG Electronics. The Journal's sources included unnamed "people familiar with the launch plans."

Speculation abounds that Microsoft will host a high-profile launch for Windows Phone 7 in New York City Oct. 11. However, Microsoft's only official New York event that day-at least so far-is its annual Open House. A Microsoft spokesperson's Sept. 30 e-mail to eWEEK declined to mention the products on-view at the Open House, but suggested: "This season is a big one for Microsoft with the launch of Xbox Kinect and Windows Phone 7, as well as new stuff from Windows Live, new Windows 7 PCs, great shopping services from Bing and more."

If the Open House follows in the footsteps of Microsoft's summer events, Windows Phone 7 and Kinect will indeed make appearances. Microsoft will host a party the evening of Oct. 11 that could also double as a Windows Phone 7 "launch."

Microsoft is making a considerable bet that Windows Phone 7 will reverse the company's mobile market share slide. In addition to the Apple iPhone and Google Android, the company also faces competition in the enterprise from Research In Motion, which seems determined to revive its own fortunes with new devices such as the BlackBerry Torch 9800.

"We missed a generation with Windows Mobile. We really did miss a release cycle," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the audience during his July 12 keynote at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference. However, he promised, "We will give you a set of Windows-based devices that people will be proud to carry."

Unlike Android and the Apple iPhone, which rely on gridlike screens of individual apps for their user interface, Windows Phone 7 aggregates Web content and apps into a series of subject-specific "Hubs" such as "Office" and "Games."

Deutsche Bank analyst Jonathan Goldberg has estimated Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 marketing tab at $400 million, not including the already-substantial development costs for the platform. On top of that, Microsoft has reportedly offered financial incentives to mobile-applications developers, trying to entice them into building apps and games for the platform.

Windows Phone 7 will appear first on GSM-based cellular networks such as AT&T's, before being available on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) carriers-including Verizon-in the first half of 2011.