Microsoft today unveiled a new generation of phones from leading manufacturers and mobile operators that offer an intuitive user interface, powerful Web browsing, and access to an online library of downloadable services and applications. Windows® phones — a new brand for phones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system — are now available in retail stores worldwide in a broad range of styles and prices.
The new phones were shown at press events in New York, hosted by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, and in Paris, where Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer showed off the new Windows phones. They also announced the availability of two key services platforms for the new phones: My Phone and Windows Marketplace for Mobile. My Phone is a free service that helps people back up and manage photos, applications and other content from their phone or PC, as well as restore information in the event of a lost phone. Windows Marketplace for Mobile is an online library of business and leisure mobile applications — as well as games — that customers can buy and download directly to their phones.
Windows phones are designed to keep people connected to their business e-mail, calendar and contacts, as well as helping people stay in touch with friends and family with voice, instant messaging, photo and video sharing and social networking.
The launch of the Windows phone brand signals a major evolution in the company’s mobile strategy from being purely a platform provider to delivering both a great platform and end-to-end experiences and choices through software and services, including a broad portfolio of applications and support from the developer community. The branding will also make it easier to find Windows phones in stores.
The new phones are available with a wide variety of styles and features, including full physical QWERTY keyboards, touch screens or both. Windows phones offer more choices of mobile operators and phone styles than any other mobile platform on the market. Manufacturers include Acer, HP, HTC Corp., LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba Corp.
The HTC Pure, for example, is engineered for one-hand use, and has a touch screen, a 5-megapixel camera, expandable memory and ambient-light sensor. The HTC Tilt 2 features a high-resolution, 3.6-inch widescreen display and full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, GPS technology, and gravity, proximity and ambient-light sensors. And the Samsung Intrepid features a slim design and full QWERTY keyboard, plus a touch screen for added flexibility, stereo Bluetooth wireless technology, a 3.0-megapixel camera and GPS technology.
A Single Phone for Work and Play
Windows phones offer the familiarity of Windows software, with mobile versions of Windows Live, Microsoft Office, Windows Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. People can access their work and personal e-mail accounts, surf the Web, look at a PowerPoint presentation, read a Word document or review an Excel spreadsheet.
The phones come with enhanced touch capabilities, including the ability to recognize a standard set of gestures, and Internet Explorer Mobile, a new, more PC-like browser that comes with Adobe Flash Lite support for better rendering and can log onto secure Web sites, so users can bank online or connect to their corporate networks.
With Windows Live on their phones, users can keep track of friends through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or Windows Live. They can upload photos and videos taken with the phones to a Facebook or MySpace page, or have video chats with friends. And they can have access to all their e-mail accounts — Windows Live Hotmail, Yahoo! mail, Gmail, Outlook Mobile and more — with auto updates so they don’t have to keep signing in to refresh.
My Phone and Marketplace
Microsoft is supporting the new phones with two new services. The first, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, is an online library of business and leisure mobile applications — as well as games — that customers can buy and download directly to their phones.
The second service, My Phone, lets people sync and back up information on their phones — such as contacts, appointments, messages, photos and videos — to a password-protected Web site. The free service is especially useful when a phone is lost, which happens 12 million times per year in the U.S., according to Microsoft surveys. My Phone premium service can ring the phone, even if it’s set to vibrate; show on a map where the phone was the last time it synchronized with the network; remotely lock the phone if it’s been stolen; and even remotely wipe the phone’s memory to protect personal data. If people need to replace the phone, My Phone can transfer to the new phone all the data that had been backed up from the lost phone.
People can personalize their Windows phones, outfitting them with apps and games from Windows Marketplace for Mobile. They can personalize the wallpaper on the home screen with their own photos and colors, or designs created by top designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, then further customize the home screen with widgets and plug-ins that show updates from their favorite Web services, tweets, sports scores, stock quotes, news, weather reports, etc.
Windows phones offer greater value, choice
Todd Peters, senior vice president for Microsoft’s Mobile Communications Marketing Group, said the value of Windows phones lies in Microsoft’s ability to give people a great experience regardless of location or device. “We are deeply committed to the three-screens strategy (PC, phone, television) and to delivering great end-to-end experiences for consumers,” he said. “When you look at the assets we have – ranging from Zune to Xbox to Outlook to Internet Explorer – we’re providing people with elegant end-to-end experiences, and connecting them to things that matter the most to them.”
Peters added that Microsoft’s depth of consumer offerings positions the company to better serve customers. “When you look at the assets we have – ranging from Zune to Xbox to Outlook to Internet Explorer – we probably are best position to provide our end users with a seamless transition between their work life and their play life,” he said.
Microsoft worked extensively with phone manufacturers to make sure that phones were equipped to allow users to make the most of Windows Mobile technology. The company’s partners are expected to deliver more than 30 new phones in more than 20 countries by the end of the year, says Stephanie Ferguson, general manager of the Business Experiences Team in the Mobile Communications Business. “Not everyone wants the same model or the same service provider,” Ferguson says. “We give people choice.”
The Windows phones were unveiled by Bach during Microsoft’s Open House, a consumer media event held in Manhattan’s Seventh Regiment Armory, a massive, fortress-like brick structure built in 1879 and now home to a brigade of the New York Army National Guard. For the Open House, Microsoft created spaces throughout the Armory’s domed central hall that mirror various aspects of our lives, including a park-like setting complete with playground and treehouse. Attendees could try out the new phones and see for themselves how easy it is to multitask when you have the right tools.
“Our lives increasingly have become this complex mash-up of our professional and personal worlds, so we need a better way to connect to the people we care about and an easier way to connect to the information that matters to us,” Bach said during his welcome at the Open House.
Ballmer hosted a simultaneous event at Microsoft’s campus in the Paris suburb of Issy-Les-Moulineaux. “These phones are only the beginning of a stream of mobile innovations that will be coming from Microsoft and our partners,” he said. “Over the coming months you’ll see a regular drumbeat of exciting new devices from our partners and updates to our software to keep pace with evolving customer demands around browsing, touch and multi-touch capabilities, to name a few. So stay tuned.”