Microsoft Gets Personal With Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 is a lot more than just a mobile operating system; it also includes built-in software and services for business and consumer scenarios, Andy Lees, senior vice president of the Mobile Communications Business, said in a keynote speech Tuesday at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, D.C.

Windows Phone 7's deep integration with Exchange, SharePoint and BPOS will generate plenty of services opportunities for partners, even those who haven't yet built a mobile business. But in addition to building line-of-business solutions, partners will be able to develop games as well, and Microsoft is framing this departure from the Windows Mobile past as evidence of its new and improved mobile outlook.

"Windows Phone 7 is a completely new strategy and we believe it’s a completely different kind of phone," Lees said. "This phone is for business and consumer users."

A range of Windows Phone 7 devices built by Samsung, HTC, LG and Dell will be available "this holiday" season, Lees told WPC attendees. To avoid fragmentation, Microsoft has been working with OEMs to give developers a more "consistent target" for screen sizes and other specifications, a move that will also benefit developers, he said.

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Microsoft is struggling to regain its once dominant position in the mobile space, and it's looking up at several competitors who've got serious momentum. But because it's still the early days in mobile, Microsoft is telling partners that there's still plenty of time to catch up.

"There is intense competition in the mobile space, but in many respects things are just beginning. There are huge opportunities ahead," Lees said.

Microsoft at WPC is talking about the linkage of the "personal cloud" to Windows 7 on PCs, and Lees said there's a "natural bridge" to Windows Phone 7 as well. As part of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft will offer Windows Phone Live, a companion site with 25 GB of Skydrive storage for photos, calendar entries and other information shared between the phone and the Web.

Windows Phone Live will include the Find My Phone service, a free offering that lets people deal with the horror of losing a mobile device. The service lets users see their phone's location on a map, and ring, lock or erase data from the device remotely from their PC.

Microsoft Monday released the final beta of its Windows Phone 7 developer tools for public download, and starting Wednesday the company will begin shipping preview devices to selected developers, Lees said. Microsoft may be down in mobile, but at WPC the company is trying to show that it's definitely not out.

"We're back, and we're back with something very different and very innovative," Lees said.