Microsoft and HTC have collaborated on a smartphone featuring the latest version of Windows Mobile, with industry experts predicting that the device could prove the strongest challenger yet to the Apple iPhone.
Unveiled at the Mobile World Conference expo today, Windows Mobile 7 (WinMo 7) differs from earlier editions of the platform by emphasising social networking. The new iteration of the operating system also brings multitouch to Windows mobile phones for the first time ever. This facet of the handsets had come in for some heavy criticism in the past.
So-called hubs will feature on the Live Tiles homescreen, each of which will offer one-touch access to the owners’ most-used applications and services. The social networking-focused People hub, for instance, offers a live stream of Twitter and Facebook updates. Meanwhile, the Games hub brings Xbox Live games to users’ handsets and the Pictures Hub is a repository for recently taken and synchronised images.
Addressing crowds at the MWC, Chief Executive of Microsoft Steve Ballmer said: “In a crowded market, filled with phones that look the same and do the same things, I challenged the team to deliver a different kind of mobile experience.
“Windows Phone 7 marks a turning point toward phones that truly reflect the speed of people’s lives and their need to connect to other people and all kinds of seamless experiences.”
Among the first manufacturers to offer phones running WinMo 7 will be HTC. The Taiwanese manufacturer plans to bring the handsets to market later this year.
Peter Chou, chief executive officer of HTC, said that the “new, fresh approach” from Microsoft was informed by customer feedback and had resulted in a “smartphone experience that is beautiful, powerful and compelling”.
The launch of the new iteration of the operating system comes in the wake of disappointing sales for Microsoft’s smartphones last year. According to analysis firm Canalys, mobiles featuring the OS accounted for just 8.8 per cent of the smartphone sales across the globe.
Microsoft’s poor showing was deemed to have been exacerbated by perceived deficiencies with MinWo 6.5. Industry figures suggested that it was unable to compete with the likes of Google’s fast-evolving Android platform and Apple’s iPhone OS.