Oooh - I'm right on the brink of ordering the HTC Desire HD
and then this is announced... http://www.smartcompany.com.au/information-technology/20101012-microsoft-launches-windows-phone-7-handsets-telstra-and-vodafone-confirm-on-sale-date-of-october-21.html
Microsoft launches Windows Phone 7 handsets, Telstra and Vodafone confirm on-sale date of October 21
by Patrick Stafford
Microsoft has unleashed its latest attack in the smartphone war, unveiling a suite of new handsets powered by its new, completely redesigned Windows Phone 7 platform in an attempt to steal back market share lost to rivals Apple and Google.
And while some analysts believe the effort may be too late for Microsoft to make any meaningful comeback, Telsyte research director Foad Fadaghi says the company may still have enough traction to control a significant portion of the market.
"The people saying this is a last-ditch effort are all smartphone users, they use iPhones or Android devices. But about 27% of the population use smartphones, and that leaves 73% that don't. That is a huge addressable market."
"By no means is the game won or lost already. We're seeing Android gain significant market share, and other players can still do the same with new technologies. I still think it's very early in the game when it comes to smartphones and mobile devices."
While Microsoft has already unveiled much of the Windows Phone 7 platform already, today it announced the handsets carrying the software at launch: HTC Surround, HTC HD7, HTC7 Mozart, HTC7 Trophy, HTC7 Pro, Dell Venue Pro, LG Quantum, LG Optimus 7, Samsung Focus and the Samsung Omnia 7.
The handsets will launch in Europe and Asia on October 21, with an November 8 launched scheduled for the United States. Telstra has confirmed it will launch the HTC 7 Mozart and the LG Optimus 7Q on October 21, while Vodafone has also confirmed it will launch the HTC7 Trophy on the same day.
The devices themselves all have fairly stringent hardware requirements as defined by Microsoft, with all of the gadgets using at least 256MB or RAM and 8GB of flash storage. They all have five megapixel cameras with LED flash and a hardware shutter key, while compasses, accelerometers and proximity sensors are all found in the various devices.
But while each gadget differs from model to model in terms of hardware, it is the Windows 7 Phone operating system that is the key focus for Microsoft. The software itself is a major departure from previous Windows Mobile incarnations and offers a minimalist design more in-tune with the company's other brands, such as the Zune media marketplace and the Xbox Live platform.
Each phone's home-screen features a number of different tiles, all used for individual apps – the phone itself, messaging, email and so on. The colour scheme is kept to bright, bold hues and the appearance is quite flat – no 3D icons or shading to be found at all.
When users swipe to the right, they can find a long list of all the apps they have installed on the phone for quick access. Each page literally flips over to the next when users are exploring through apps and settings, while the minimalist theme remains the same throughout all of the in-built apps including the calendar and media player, with Microsoft aiming to avoid clutter.
Microsoft is also emphasising integration with its existing services as a main feature. Users of the Xbox 360 Live service can login to their profile and update their statistics through games played on a Windows Phone 7 phone, similar to the Apple Games Centre. The gadgets also integrate contact details with Facebook.
But like any smartphone platform, Microsoft is also emphasising the number of apps available through the Windows Marketplace. A number of games will be available including the popular Bejeweled and Fruit Ninja apps, while services like Twitter, IMDB and eBay all showed off their apps at the official company launch.
The company also said that while it lacks the hundreds of thousands of apps available on the App Store or Android Market, it believes its apps are of a higher quality.
But opinions are mixed as to whether Microsoft can actually save itself from destruction in the smartphone market. Research firm Gartner pegs Microsoft's market share at just 4.7% in 2010, and predicts that will decline to just 3.9% in 2014.
The problem is that while Microsoft's new platform may be strong enough to stand aside Android and iOS, its previous mistakes in the mobile arena have left the company with too small a market share.
Gartner claims that WP7, "demonstrates the company's desire to re-establish itself as the platform of choice for mobile developers and users worldwide" and says it will take 18 months for the platform to mature and compete."
TechCrunch is also pessimistic about WP7's future, with Matt Burns writing that, "Windows Phone 7 might have been a huge hit... but it won't. It's an iOS, Android and BlackBerry world now and there isn't room for anyone else".
"Outside of the snobby internet crowd, Microsoft still has a good name with most people and a solid marketing blitz might help the new platform chip-out a foothold. If Windows Phone 7 hit two years ago, it would be where Android is today. Oh well."
However, some analysts are more hopeful about Microsoft's future. Engadget writes that, "for the first time in a long time, we're excited about Microsoft in the mobile space".
Fadaghi agrees and says Microsoft should be able to find a market for itself among non-smartphone users and a demographic that doesn't necessarily care about the latest-and-greatest updates for hardware.
"We did some research with non-smartphone users and their requirements are much different from current smartphone users. They look for a device that has greater ease of use or a better camera."
"They're not looking, necessarily, for compatibility with computers or the computer-like functionality. There is some room in this market left to give and I don't think it's a done deal."