Microsoft has released to manufacturing its Windows Phone 7 operating system for smartphones, taking a major step in its efforts to regain momentum in the mobile device market.
Word of the milestone came in a blog posted late Wednesday by Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Windows Phone engineering.
From here Microsoft will be sending the mobile operating system to handset manufacturers who will build it into their products. Microsoft has said a number of manufacturers, including Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung, have committed to using Windows Phone 7.
Microsoft is playing catch-up in the mobile operating system arena where Windows Mobile, the current version of the vendor's mobile operating system, lags behind leaders Symbian and Research In Motion, and even more recent entrants Android and Apple's iPhone OS.
In the second quarter of this year Windows Mobile held only a five-percent share of the worldwide smartphone operating system market, according to market research firm Gartner, down from 9.3 percent in the second quarter of 2009.
At Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in July Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer acknowledged that the company had missed "a whole generation of users" with its earlier mobile software efforts, but vowed to make up for lost ground with Windows Phone 7. Throughout WPC Microsoft executives never missed an opportunity to tout the capabilities of the new mobile operating system.
Efforts to build support for Windows Mobile 7 also include creation of an online showroom called Mobile App Match to spur development of third-party applications for the mobile operating system, and supporting the development of video games that will run with Windows Phone 7.
"While the final integration of Windows Phone 7 with our partners' hardware, software, and networks is underway, the work of our internal engineering team is largely complete," Myerson said in his blog.
"Windows Phone 7 is the most thoroughly tested mobile platform Microsoft has ever released," he wrote. "We had nearly ten thousand devices running automated tests daily, over a half million hours of active self-hosting use, over three and a half million hours of stress test passes, and eight and a half million hours of fully automated test passes. We've had thousands of independent software vendors and early adopters testing our software and giving us great feedback. We are ready."