At a press event in New York today, Microsoft finally unveiled its Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system, a much-anticipated, long-overdue serious push into the smartphone market by a company that admits it’s far behind Apple, Google, and RIM.
The new phone is an important step for Microsoft in three ways. To begin, it is a completely fresh start for Microsoft in smartphones. Second, it represents a new approach from Microsoft toward integrating products and services from across the company into the phone to create a richer experience and greater productivity. Hence the presence of Office, Zune and Xbox LIVE and their integration within the Hub model. And finally, the new phone approach is critical to Microsoft’s efforts to make new gains in the huge smartphone market, which despite the success of the iPhone and Android is still relatively untapped globally.
Note that while Microsoft is emphasizing the Windows Phone 7 experience as an alternative to other smartphones’ focus on apps (read: iPhones and Android phones) — “Instead it provides active and configurable interface elements called tiles that update on the fly with real information, allowing users to place the tiles that interest them most where they want on their Start screen” — Engadget reports that there are currently only 86 apps available in the WP7 marketplace. Far from the “over 2,000 at launch” Microsoft touted just recently, but there are still days to go before launch, during which more apps could presumably trickle in.
Windows Phone 7 will debut in some European markets on October 21; the first WP7-powered US phone will be a release from AT&T, available on November 8th.
Check out Giz’s guide to the Windows Phone 7 phones that’ll be available in the US.