Microsoft plays catch up with Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7After languishing on the sidelines as Apple's iPhone and Google's Android made repeated news, Microsoft finally announced its new smartphone platform -- the Windows Phone 7.

Microsoft knew that the newest battle is for the phone. It had to reduce its ambitions trying to get out of the hole it had created for itself with Windows Vista. Once it did so with the release of its latest OS, Windows 7, it turned its attention to the phone.

It is reported that Microsoft moved engineers from other departments to work Windows Phone 7. The final version will hit the market at the end of 2010, in time for the holiday season.

The interface to Windows Phone 7, based on Microsoft's Zune, is new and exciting -- a far cry from its previous Windows Mobile 6. In particular, the platform requires three buttons, and capacitive screen with multi-touch. This standardization indicates that Microsoft will demand higher hardware conformity and control than it did earlier, probably in an acknowledgment of Apple's success with the iPhone. Interestingly, one of the buttons is dedicated to search based on Bing, Microsoft's search engine.

And therein lies Microsoft's most significant step. In recent times, it is applications and platforms from Google, the search engine leader, that have been making news; and it is Google that is seen as the foremost technology company, a position formerly enjoyed by Microsoft. Microsoft hopes to finally challenge Google at its core business with Bing and regain its position. It is in talks with Apple to replace Google with Bing as the default search engine on its iPhone, another significant move.

There could be just one hiccup.

Windows Phone 7 lands at a time when the platform business is already crowded. iPhone is already the leader, and Google's Android is gaining crucial traction. Significantly, Intel, the leading computer chip maker, and Nokia, the globally leading phone maker, have announced a collaboration on the MeeGo, a new smartphone platform based on Linux.

Nevertheless, Windows Mobile still is featured in a number of phones and consumers loyal to Windows products will find this interface attractive. It is still not clear which future phones will feature the interface or how much they will cost.

This indicates an OS war is brewing. Where the platforms are not just the smartphones, but also netbooks and tablets. The IT industry is buzzing again. It is an exciting time for consumers, as well as geeks, as newer and better products are about to hit the market.

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