Microsoft Promises Me-First Experience With Windows Phone 7

Hoping to finally call itself a true smartphone and mobile contender in the age of Apple and Android, Microsoft on Monday formally lifted the curtain on its reworked Windows Phone 7 mobile OS, along with a slew of Phone 7 devices promised from LG, Samsung, HTC and Dell.

The goal with Windows Phone 7 is to "let you get in, out and back to life, and have that be as fast and as simple as humanly possible," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at the company's launch event in New York.

Ultimately, said the effusive Ballmer, Microsoft wants to provide a mobile experience that users can call "always delightful" and "wonderfully mine" -- an easy-to-use, endlessly customizable mobile experience that adapts to a user's exacting preferences around business tools, contacts, games and a number of other things.

Three of the initial phones will be with AT&T. According to Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, the Samsung Focus, the LG Quantum and the HTC Surround will be available in November, with the Focus arriving first on Nov. 8. Each will cost $199.99 with a two-year contract, and among other phone-specific features, each offers a 1 Ghz processor.

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T-Mobile was scheduled to announce its Windows Phone 7 devices later Monday. Microsoft said the phones will be available with 60 carrier partners in 30 countries worldwide.

Next: Details Emerge

For Ballmer and Microsoft, the new Phone 7 is a bold gamble: a completely reworked mobile OS for which Microsoft essentially went back to the drawing board from previous mobile OS platforms.

Traction in the smartphone OS space has become something of a white whale for Microsoft, which has steadily lost ground to a number of platforms, including Apple, with its juggernaut iPhone, and Google, whose increasingly popular, open-source Android OS is now seen on a small galaxy of hot smartphones and other mobile devices. According to researcher Canalys, Microsoft had a 5.5 percent share of the smartphone OS market, while Apple and especially Android have both continued to make gains.

The Windows Phone 7 interface combines large text and tile-like buttons, much like what appears on Microsoft's Zune media player. What users will find is a series of "hubs," which loosely organize how users store contacts, information and functions in specific areas, including for people, for business, for pictures and for games. The functionality within each is smart, explained Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows phone program, who demonstrated everything from search functions activated by voice, to command upload of pictures to Facebook, to a quirky, one-touch function that lets users tell fellow meeting attendees they're running late, to a customizable avatar.

Belfiore said that "hundreds of thousands" of developers were at work on apps for the Windows Phone 7 devices. He added that copy-and-paste will come to Windows Phone 7 in early 2011.

"Everybody should be able to look at a Windows phone and say, 'I can represent me with this device,'" Ballmer said.