Microsoft has at last confirmed its Windows Phone 7 platform, in a presentation today (February 15) at a packed-out press conference at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Windows Phone 7 follows Windows Mobile 6.5, and integrates Xbox LIVE games and its Zune music and video function. The first devices bearing the operating systems will not appear, however, until Christmas.
Mobile operators AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone will range Windows Phones 7 handsets in due course.
Manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba are working on handsets to run off the platform, to be avalable in a rush in time for Christmas.
Orange and AT&T will be network partners at launch.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said: “In a crowded market filled with phones that look the same and do the same things, I challenged the team to deliver a different kind of mobile experience. Windows Phone 7 Series is a phone that truly reflects the speed of people’s lives and their need to connect to other people.”
Nevertheless, Ballmer said Windows Mobile 6.5 remains a going concern for Microsoft’s R&D team. “We will continue to invest in Windows Mobile 6.5 but Windows Phone 7 is a new generation.”
He explained: “Good relationships with hardware vendors and operators are crucial. We wanted more consistency in terms of design and end-user experience and we wanted to have a phone that allows operators to show off what their networks can do.”
Orange senior executive vice president for global mobile Olaf Swantee said: “Our partnership with Microsoft is more than devices; we will also work on distribution, support and services, and help customers to get Windows Phone up and running with Orange Care support.
“Only 25 per cent of Orange customers are accessing the mobile internet, and with Windows Phone on board, we hope to increase that to the remaining 75 per cent.”
The new operating systems will integrate ‘live’ updates from applications of choice, and new Windows Phone 7 releases will feature a dedicated button to connect directly to Microsoft’s Bing search engine, which will return local and relevant search results based on user tastes and geographic location.
New devices will also feature ‘hubs’ to bring together web content, applications and services that are relevant users. Hubs are themed around people, pictures, games, music and video, applications and office work software.
Announcements around the platform for developers will be made at the Mix conference next month.