Microsoft rings up new phones

Microsoft has unveiled its plan to
battle the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smart phones with its new Windows
Phone 7 mobile operating system.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the
Windows Phone 7 smart phones would be available in the United States on
AT&T’s network.

Microsoft also announced
partnerships with Samsung, LG and HTC, which will make devices to run the new
smart phone software.

Samsung’s phone, called the Focus,
will be available on 8 November, and the Surround from HTC and Quantum from LG
would be in stores in time for the holidays, Microsoft said. All three phones
will cost $199.99.

The Windows Phone 7 line-up will
eventually include nine phone models available in 30 countries, Ballmer said.

“It’s a different kind of phone,”
he said. “It gets you in, gets you out, and back to life as fast as humanly
possible.”

Instead of the typical smart phone
user interface — a series of small icons to launch applications — Windows Phone
7 uses large, dynamic tiles that Microsoft hopes will be both intuitive to use
and easy to navigate.

Social networking is baked in, with
a “people hub” that tracks updates across a user’s contact list. A camera
button wakes the phone into shooting mode quickly, so that it is able to almost
instantly begin snapping photos. Games are a focus: Xbox Live players can take
their accounts on the go, and Electronic Arts is a launch partner, bringing the
Sims game to the phones.

Windows Phone 7 integrates deeply
with other Microsoft products. Notes taken on phone with OneNote automatically
sync to the cloud with Office Live. Along with top-notch support for Microsoft
Outlook and Exchange — which should make corporate IT departments very happy —
the phones offer a spell check that automatically underlines misspelled words
with the red squiggly line familiar to Word users.

But one feature was noticeably
missing at launch: copy/paste. Microsoft didn’t put that in the original code
because it didn’t think it would be needed, thanks to auto-links between applications,
a company executive said. But developers demanded it, and Microsoft plans to
add it in an update in early 2011.

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