Thursday, September 30, 2010

AT&T Will Be Exclusive Carrier for Windows Phone 7

New Windows Phone 7 Series smartphones from Samsung, LG and HTC will be exclusive to AT&T, starting Oct. 11. Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 debut on AT&T is critical in a competitive market led by Apple and Android devices. With Microsoft's share of the mobile market at five percent, analysts are skeptical that Windows Phone 7 will revive it.

Microsoft plans to unveil smartphones that run its Windows Phone 7 Series operating system on Oct. 11. The software giant is partnering with AT&T to roll out new devices from Samsung, LG Electronics, and HTC.

The Wall Street Journal cited people familiar with the matter in detailing the planned New York launch and smaller events in other key cities. Microsoft is hoping to rebound in an increasingly competitive smartphone operating-system market where Apple and Android devices have been gaining ground on established players.

"This is a very critical launch for Microsoft," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. "Developers have actually been pretty positive about the platform. People who have seen the phone are pleasantly surprised about how good it is and are hoping for an alternative to the other devices that are out there, specifically Apple. The success is going to depend an awful lot on the hardware end."

Windows Phone 7 Defined

The Journal said AT&T has an exclusive on Windows Phone 7 devices, which won't include any hardware from Microsoft itself. Microsoft tried its hand at smartphone manufacturing with the KIN, which sold on Verizon Wireless and failed in the first six weeks. But KIN didn't sport Windows Phone 7.

Windows Phone 7 works to consolidate common tasks and services in shared hubs so consumers don't have to move in and out of smartphone apps. It's no surprise that Microsoft's search engine Bing is built into the phone.

Every phone that uses the operating system will offer a dedicated hardware button for Bing to give users one-click access to search from anywhere on the phone. And a special implementation of Bing search provides intent-specific results, delivering the most relevant web or local results, depending on the type of query.

Microsoft has developed what it calls dynamically updated "live tiles" that show real-time content Relevant Products/Services. This flies in the face of traditional static icons that offer stepping stones to an application. With social networking in mind, the Start screen lets users create a tile of a friend and get a readable, up-to-date view of the friend's latest picture and posts.

Another Phone 7 differentiator is hubs, which bring together applications, services and related content from the web into a single view to streamline user tasks. Microsoft has developed six theme-based hubs: People, Pictures, Games, Music and Video, Marketplace and Office. The operating system will come with Zune integration Relevant Products/Services.

Too Late for Microsoft?

Some analysts are skeptical that Phone 7 will breathe new life into Microsoft's mobile Relevant Products/Services strategy. Gartner reports Microsoft's share of the smartphone operating-system market has dipped to five percent. Microsoft held 9.3 percent just a year ago. But Enderle said it's never too late in the smartphone game.

"Apple entered the smartphone market way late. And we had smartphones in the market for several years before Apple brought out the iPhone. We clearly had some players that were thought to be unstoppable -- Nokia and Research In Motion -- and Apple swept in without any trouble at all and carved out a segment," Enderle said.

"Now Nokia, the most powerful wireless Relevant Products/Services company in the world, is on the ropes. If nothing else, this demonstrates that the smartphone market is anything but stable," he added. "Smartphone penetration is still a relatively small percentage of overall cell phones. It's still anybody's game."

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