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Windows Phone 7: 'Different, delightful'... and unfinished

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Updated Microsoft has unveiled Windows Phone 7, stressing the phone's difference from other touchscreen devices, such as the iPhone and Android handsets.

Company chief executive Steve Ballmer called Windows Phone 7 "different" no less than five times during his remarks at a company event in New York where Microsoft joined number-two US wireless carrier AT&T in unveiling handsets that run the software.

Windows Phone 7 devices will be "delightful and wonderfully mine" Ballmer kept saying, clearly having a little trouble getting his tongue around the phone's official tag line.

The big difference is the way that the operating system group activities like Office, social networking, and music into hubs – and that Bing search has been wired into the phone's hardware via a button on the front. Phones will also be integrated with Xbox Live.

No matter how different, delightful, and personalized Windows Phone 7 is, it's going to remain incredibly difficult to actually get a Windows Phone 7 handset for some time.

And what you get this year is going to be unfinished.

Ballmer previewed nine handsets from four makers - HTC, Samsung, LG, and Dell – while AT&T committed to offering three machines: the LQ Quantum, HTC Surround, and Samsung Focus.

November 8 is the big date when phones will be available in the US. But only one model is debuting that day: the Samsung Focus. The Surround and Quantum will be available "a few weeks later," AT&T mobility and consumer markets CEO Ralph de la Vega said.

Microsoft promised phones would be available from 10 service providers in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Singapore, and Australia "in the 2010 holiday time frame." Ballmer had claimed phones would ship from 60 mobile operators in 30 countries.

AT&T is the only officially named US carrier, although devices are coming from T-Mobile - a fact Microsoft downplayed for today's non-launch event.

Outside the US, phones will ship from Telus in Canada, America Movil in Mexico, O2 and Vodafone in the UK, Orange in the UK, SPR in France, Movistar in Spain, Deutsche Telekom in Germany, SingTel in Singapore, and Telstra and Vodafone in Australia.

Apart from the Surround, Focus, and Quantum phones, we'l also see the LG Optimus 7; HTC's HD7, Mozart, and Trophy; the Samsung Omnia 7; and Dell's Venue Pro.

Microsoft is playing fast and loose with the holiday 2010 date in order to say that Windows Phone 7 wasn't delayed and that it arrived in time for 2010. The holiday period is when consumers - the phone's target market - traditionally open their wallets and start spending in force. To miss this season would make it another year before Microsoft could cash in on the money and would raise further questions about Microsoft's lateness.

Meanwhile, what will ship on November 8 will be unfinished. A cut-and-paste feature will be rolled into phones next year through a software update. Vice president of Windows Phone Program management Joe Belfiore said cut-and-paste would be made available to phones people buy during the 2010 holiday season via the software update.

Cut and paste is being added following feedback from the Windows Phone 7 beta program according to Belfiore who said it had been overlooked as Microsoft had focused instead on touch.

The unveiling of the nine handsets was the only new part of the joint Microsoft and AT&T event on Monday.

Once Ballmer and de la Vega had delivered their messages, Belfiore walked people through the phone's features. These include the six hubs that supposedly group content and services by type - people, pictures, games, music and video, marketplace, and Office.

"We set out to build a phone that's thoroughly modern - modern in the hardware that it uses, in its design principles, in the way it embraces what people do with internet services... with all that in mind we've take a very different tack at the same time," Ballmer said.

In a further proof that what you'll get on November 8 is incomplete, there was no mention of the apps marketplace. No one said how many apps are available, although Belfiore did announce a partnership with EA Games to put a number of titles on Windows Phone 7.

Thanks to one Reg reader who tracked down a total of 80 applications for Windows Phone 7 in Microsoft's mobile marketplace. That compares to "more than" 500 apps for the iPhone in Apple's App Store on that phone's launch three years ago. A quarter of those applications were available for free. ®

This article has been updated to include the number of applications for Windows Phone 7 in Microsoft's mobile Marketplace.

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