Microsoft Unveils First Windows Mobile 7 Powered Smartphones

We knew that Microsoft’s launch date was nearing for their mobile strategy re-boot. Designed to go head-to-head with the current heavy-weights of the smartphone arena — the Apple iPhone and the myriad Google Android-powered devices — what we didn’t know is what the new Windows Mobile 7 would look like and what sort of handsets would be available on launch day. That officially changes today with a big media shindig in New York hosted by CEO Steve Ballmer.

Microsoft is really hitting the ground running, with 9 new handsets that will run Redmond’s newest flavor of mobile OS. For those of us in North America, we have a total of 5 to choose from depending on your intended network. If that  choice is AT&T, your selections will be limited to the HTC Surround, Samsung’s Focus or the LG Quantum (pictured). T-Mobile customers will have one fewer option with either the new HTC HD7 or the Dell Venue Pro.

All of the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 phones will include the high-performance Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, the processor of choice for most Android-powered phones these days. Microsoft has indicated that the new phones will begin shipping in time for the holidays this year with even more choices arriving in 2011, including phones from both Sprint and Verizon Wireless.

Microsoft has really gone off on a tangent in terms of user interface. Instead of the numerous small icons littering the the start screens of most smartphones these days, the revamped Windows Mobile 7 OS uses an array of large tiles, ‘Live Tiles’ in Microsoft parlance, that the company hopes will be both intuitive to use and easy to navigate.

In fact, the company is referring to their customizable start screen as ‘Glance ‘n’ Go,’ which describes the ease in which users will be able to discern important updates with just a brief glance at their phone.

A social networking ‘people hub’ is also a native feature of the new mobile OS, offering an easy way to track updates and info about your friends via typical sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Dig deeper though and you’ll find Microsoft has managed to embed some interesting capabilities as well as some expected Microsoft-owned properties directly into their new mobile OS.

The HTC 7 Surround running Windows Mobile 7 and showing off its slide-out SRS surround sound speakers

New Windows Phones will be Xbox LIVE enabled, allowing you to take your account with you and allowing casual on-the-go gaming with such launch titles as ‘Need for Speed Undercover,’ ‘Tetris and  EA’s mobile-optimized ‘The Sims 3.’ Also baked right in, is the Zune music experience optimized for mobile. Buyers of the latest Windows phones can expect play their music collections, synced wirelessly from their PC, or stream or download new tunes from the Windows Marketplace.

And finally, get productive with Windows Live for the mobile environment. Windows Live will help users manage pictures, Windows Live calendars, Office OneNote Mobile, along with top-notch support for Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. The free ‘Find My Phone’ service, which  is a  new feature on Windows Live, can remotely ring, lock, erase and show the location of your phone on a map.

To learn more about the new and improved features offered by Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 7, head on over to the official site for further details. And be sure to tell us what you think! Let us know in the comment section if these new smartphones based on Microsoft’s latest mobile OS might tempt you away from your Android or iPhone.

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