BARCELONA—Microsoft unveiled its much anticipated Windows 7 for mobile on Monday, including hardware partners and operators ready to work with the software giant on devices.
Similar to last year’s Microsoft press conference at Mobile World Congress, the overflow crowd of journalists spilled out of the auditorium and into another area of the Hotel Plaza Cataluyna that was equipped with video monitors showing views of the stage.
But this year was certainly different, and Microsoft, after revaluating its mobile strategy about a year and a half or two years ago, pulled out a lot of stops, showing how its next generation of mobile phones will leverage a host of Microsoft products, from Zune to Microsoft Office. Executives, introduced to the stage by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, talked about delivering devices that would bridge the user’s personal and business lives. It appears to be not a single strategy targeting either the consumer segment or the enterprise segment, but both at the same time.
And Ballmer got a further assist from AT&T and Orange, whose executives took the stage separately to espouse on the virtues of Windows 7 and what it will mean for their customers. Microsoft says operators will benefit by adding their own software and services to the package.
Ballmer said the company expects the first handset will be ready for the market by Christmas 2010.
“We’re taking a step. I think it’s a big step,” he said, later adding: “We hope seven is our lucky number.”
Joe Belfore, Microsoft vice president in charge of product management and design, set out to explain how Windows 7 will be used to create a different kind of phone. One of the missions of the initial thought process was to put the user at the center of the experience and move beyond separate applications.
Belfore stepped through some of the specifics of the phone, starting with the three buttons to be featured: start, search and back. The device will come with a multi-touch screen and feature live tiles and hubs for people, pictures, office, music/video and games. Windows 7 phones will include Zune, as well as connections to Bing and X Box Live.
When asked during a Q&A about the free model, which is what Google’s Android offers, Ballmer said he thinks there’s something clear and simple to understand about Microsoft’s model and one should always be cautious about what’s really “free.” Microsoft isn’t entertaining any thoughts of deviating from its model of selling software to others that make the devices, he said.