Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 7 Handsets

Microsoft has taken the wraps off the first Windows Phone 7 handsets at a press event in London. The phones are due to launch in the UK on 21 October.

Orange will offer the HTC 7 Mozart and Samsung Omnia 7. The Omnia 7 will also be available from T-Mobile and 3 UK. The HTC7 Trophy and LG Optimus 7 will be available from Vodafone, while O2 will offer the HTC D7. There will also be a Dell handset, the Dell Venue Pro, aimed at the b2b sector and available through the open market. Globally, Windows Mobile 7 handsets will aunch with 60 mobile operators in more than 30 countries.

Speaking at the launch, Ashley Highfield, managing director & VP, consumer and online UK for Microsoft, described Windows Phone 7 as the result of a “relentless focus on the consumer” before the launch cut to a live launch in New York, where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer introduced the two grounding concepts behind the platform: ‘Always Delightful’ and ‘Wonderfully Mine’. Expect to see and hear these phrases once or twice in the weeks and months to come.

Back in the UK, Andy Lees, president of Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Business, explained how he had decided to put a halt to all new mobile platform development when he took the job two years ago and have what he called a “full reset”, which led to the development of the new OS.

Lees’ colleague Aaron Woodman gave a mostly impressive demo the phone’s capabilities, stressing the ease with which different applications integrated with each other intuitively without having to manually fire them up. He also took delegates through the Windows Phone Hub concept. This puts all data relating to each of People; Pictures; Office; Music & Video; Games; and Marketplace in one place for easy access, manipulation and enjoyment. 

There was a surprise when self-confessed tech-head Stephen Fry, who has been openly critical of Microsoft products in the past, was wheeled out to share his views on what he thought of the Windows 7 handset he had been given to play with a week ago.

He said: “I have made no secret of my dislike for Microsoft,” but, describing his experience of using the phone over the past few days, he added: “My first feeling was that it was fun to play with it…I have felt enormous pleasure using the phone.” Fry concluded: “I am genuinely thrilled to stand on the stage and praise Microsoft for doing something they can be genuinely proud of.”

Fry was at pains to point out that he was not being paid by Microsoft to take part in today’s event, and was not working to a pre-approved script. That being the case, at that point, the organisers could have been forgiven for starting a round of wild applause and shuffling him off. As it was, there was just enough time for him to add: “Windows 7 is better than Vista, but the sh*t on my shoe is better than Vista.” Which if nothing else, proves that he was telling the truth.

The user interface we saw this afternoon was certainly bold, and can be seen as a brave move by Microsoft. Whether it’s enough to carve out a significant slice of the smartphone market remains to be seen.