5 Windows 7 Phones Due This Year In U.S.

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New York - AT&T will be first to launch Windows Phone 7 smartphones in the U.S. on Nov. 8, followed by T-Mobile in mid-November.


That will be trailed by a Sprint debut in the first half, and sometime in 2011, by Verizon Wireless as part of Microsoft's bid to rebuild its smartphone market share.

 The phones are part of a worldwide launch in which nine different phones will be available this year in more than 30 countries through more than 60 carriers, CEO Steve Ballmer told reporters at a

press conference here

.

U.S. consumers will get their first glimpse of a Windows Phone 7 smartphone on Nov. 8 when AT&T's Samsung-made Focus arrives in AT&T stores and indirect retailers, followed "a few weeks" later by the LG Quantum and HTC Surround, said AT&T mobility and consumer products president/CEO Ralph de la Vega. All three are priced at $199. Two other phones due in time for the holidays, said Microsoft, are T-Mobile's planned HTC-made HD7, which the carrier said is due in mid-November, and Dell's Venue Pro, designed for the T-Mobile network. Pricing of the T-Mobile-network phones wasn't announced.

All AT&T and T-Mobile networks incorporate 7.2Mbps HSPA 3G data, and all but the HTC HD7 operate in foreign 2.1GHz 3G HSPA networks, according to Microsoft-supplied information.

 These phones and the planned Sprint and Verizon phones meet Microsoft's minimum performance requirements, or "chassis spec," which mandates a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 5-megapixel camera, 800 by 480 or better capacitive-touchscreen display, minimum RAM and flash-memory requirements, and the like. They also feature 720p HD video recording.

 All are designed to reverse Microsoft's shrinking share of a smartphone market dominated by the Apple and BlackBerry OSs and undergoing an upheaval with the proliferation of Android-OS smartphones. The launch is "critically important for Microsoft because computing is going mobile, and Microsoft can't afford to cede that market to Apple and Google," Current Analysis research director Avi Greengart told TWICE during the event.

 

To rebuild its share, corporate VP Joe Belfiore said during the press conference, the company designed an OS to achieve two basic goals: simplify basic operating tasks using as few taps as possible and organize information for easy access.

As a result, all phones feature six hubs where the most common applications and tasks are accessible and integrated.

The hubs include an Office Hub with key Microsoft productivity applications, a games hub, a music and video hub, a pictures hub, a people hub incorporating contacts and social-network feeds, and a marketplace hub for downloading apps.

The OS's Live Tiles feature displays multiple tiles on a customizable home screen, each tile letting users see live information without launching an app. Live information includes real-time news updates from the Web, appointments, the number of unread emails, or friends' status on social-networking sites.

Other ease-of-use features include the ability to take pictures quickly if the phone is off. Users hit the camera button, waking up the phone so they can immediately take pictures, Belfiore said. Users can also set the camera to automatically send each picture to a cloud-based storage service as they are taken.

 A dedicated search button helps people find data across applications, whether in contacts, the Microsoft Marketplace, in email or on the Web, the company also said. From the Start screen, the search button accesses the Bing for Mobile service to deliver Web search results, local information, maps, directions and the like.

All phones are also integrated with other Microsoft services such as Windows Live, Xbox Live and Windows Marketplace to purchase or stream music, and the Zune Pass subscription-based music downloading and streaming service.

 "Two things stand out," said Greengart. "The way the features are implemented and integrated is very, very different from the iPhone and Android phones," he said. He also cited Xbox Live integration, enabling users to view friends, avatars, achievements and the like, but not yet enabling online multiplayer gaming via the handset.

 The features will appear first in the U.S. on AT&T's Samsung-made Focus, a touchscreen-only model promoted as AT&T's thinnest Windows 7 phone, at 9.9mm thick. It features Samsung's proprietary Super AMOLED display, 4-inch display and 8GB of included memory.

  LG's Quantum features 3.5-inch touchscreen, slide-from-the-side QWERTY keyboard, 16GB of included memory, and DLNA-certified Wi-Fi to stream audio and video to DLNA-certified networked devices, including TVs. The HTC-made Surround, promoted as a media and gaming phone, is the first smartphone in the U.S. to include Dolby Mobile audio technology and SRS virtual surround sound, AT&T said. It comes with slide-out stereo speakers and a kickstand for tabletop viewing of video on its 3.6-inch screen.

  The AT&T phones are also loaded with the AT&T U-verse Mobile app, which lets users download and watch shows available through AT&T's U-verse residential TV service. The app lets users search for shows available on the residential service and download them for mobile viewing. A U-verse app will also be available in a few days for Xbox game consoles to turn them into full-fledged U-verse receivers, de la Vega said.

 At T-Mobile, the HTC-made HD7 will feature the largest screen on a U.S. Windows phone, at 4.3 inches when it becomes available. It will also be preloaded with Netflix, T-Mobile TV and Slacker Radio. Netflix enables streaming of movies and TV shows, and T-Mobile TV offers live and on-demand TV over the cellular airwaves, including free programming from ABC News NOW, FOX Sports, PBS Kids, Azteca America and other content providers. The device will also feature turn-by-turn navigation via TeleNav GPS Navigator service, 16GB of internal memory and a camera with dual LED flash.

 The HTC HD7 will also be the carrier's first device with the T-Mobile Family Room application, which lets consumers write a note on a virtual chalkboard and add shared calendar events for Family Room groups to coordinate get-togethers. It also features real-time notifications to alert users when a family member posts something for everyone to see.

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