ABOVE - IT'S LOVE: He seems a little more focussed on the sales rep than the phone, but nevertheless Jourdan Templeton from Waikato has become the first person in the world to buy a Windows Phone 7 mobile, in Auckland this morning.
Microsoft is gearing up for another attempt to take on RIM’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android, and other smartphone contenders.
By dint of the dateline, New Zealand today becomes the first country to see a Windows Phone 7 handset (see above).
The bad news: Telecom has yet to commit to a date to launch a Windows Phone 7 handset for the general market (though Gen-i will weigh in with a corporate offering.
A Telecom spokeswoman told NBR the company was looking at releasing a Windows Phone 7 handset "at a later date".
And 2degrees offered the lethargic response that it had "no plans at this stage" to offer its customers any Windows Phone 7 mobiles.
The Windows Phone 7 platform is backed by an online store, Zune Marketplace, which is similar to Apple's iTunes.
Microsoft NZ said this morning that All Blacks, Subway, BluesBox, Welly Walks and AlphaJax have apps started to appear in Microsoft’s online app store, Zune Marketplace.
Another 30 local apps are expected to be added before the end of the year, including TradeMe, Air New Zealand mPass, Open Home Finder, Yellow and Flybuys.
App developers, of course, need an audience. But unfortunately, the NZ launch is not shaping up to be a blockbuster, with only a single handset confirmed for general release (a second is on the way, but will only be available through a business channel, initially).
Don't shoot the messenger
I know some readers have pinged me for being negative about this launch, but I'm all for more mobile competion.
It means more innovation, and cheaper phones and services.
So I'd like to see NZ carriers, and multinational handset makers, go all out to support this new Microsoft initiative, as they have in the US (where nine Windows Phone 7 phones are being released - by multiple phone companies - or, to a lesser extent, as they have across the Tasman (read: Windows Phone 7 flood to hit Australia).
But the fact of the matter is they haven't. One handset - for general release - is a sorry start. A historic shift is taking place, with more and more people using a mobile as their primary internet device, making Windows Phone 7 Microsoft's most crucial product release in a generation. Under that circumstance, one phone (one phone!) does not cut it.
Telecom chief executive Paul Reynolds has gone bananas for Android - repeatedly name-checking Google's platform at his company's annual result, saying "We think it’s commercially an extremely strong offering for the business.” Rivals got no mention.
And Telecom has taken out a raft of full-page adds to promote Android phones. One wonders if Windows Phone 7 will get the same kind of push (at least outside Gen-i; keep reading).
Vodafone's handset ...
The first and so far only Windows Phone 7 handset, The HTC Trophy (pictured above) features a massive 4.8-inch touchscreen (see pcworld.com's preview here).
The handset itself costs $899 off contract.
Windows Phone 7 plans on Vodafone start from $40.85 per month (includes 30 minutes of calls, 300 texts and up to 250Mb of data) with the handset priced at $799. To get a Windows Phone 7 for under $500, customers can sign up to the $81.75 monthly plan which includes 120 minutes, 600 texts and up to 250Mb of data.
... and Gen-i's
Telecom's Gen-i is not far behind, promising its own Windows Phone 7 handset, the LG Optimus 7Q (pictured right; see pcworld.com's review of the 7Q here).
Telecom Retail customers will be offered the 7Q "at a later date".
Prioritising Gen-i indicates Telecom sees Windows Phone 7, for all its entertainment frills (keep reading) as most appealing to those in the corporate computing sphere, where Microsoft's various attempts at mobile phones have always proved the most successful.
"Soon 50% of all mobile devices in market will be PDAs and the Windows Phone 7 will be one of the leading smartphone operating systems, giving users a mobile internet experience about as close to an integrated computer as they can get," Gen-i Australasia chief executive Chris Quin said.
Mr Quin said Gen-i - a Microsoft Gold Partner - was already seeing a lot of interest from its corporate clients. The Telecom division will take pre-orders through its website.
ABOVE: MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB - Microsoft's smartphone market share is so modest that it isn't even included on most charts. Last week, The Wall Street Journal put it at 5.5% (click chart to zoom).
Microsoft's last stab at the mobile market, the Kin, was a shocker. The phone, which couldn't txt, was pulled from the market in July after just two months on sale.
But Windows Phone 7, with its distinctive tile interface, is a much more broad-ranging initiative. Unlike the Kin, it draws in third-party hardware partners - at this stage Dell, HTC, LG and Samsung.
It is not a direct relation to Windows Mobile 6 (stay with me), but rather an attempt to totally reinvent and relaunch Microsoft’s smartphone software.
ABOVE: The official Windows Phone 7 launch video. BELOW: The much more entertaining ad now running in the US, featuring a gentleman fishing a dropped Windows Phone 7 handset out of a urinal and the instant-classic catchphrase "Really?"
Microsoft NZ country manager Paul Muckleston has previously told NBR that his company’s Zune service – an iTunes style service, but offering unlimited monthly music – will be released in New Zealand to support Windows 7 phones.
Hopefully things are going to ramp up from here. To take on iPhone, BlackBerry, Android et al, Microsoft has a mountain to climb. It’s years behind, lacks support from an A-list handset maker, and lacks credibility with customers after abandoning previous attempts at mobile online services, operating systems, and phones.
Windows Phone 7 handsets will be supported by mobile and online versions of Office, Zune (pictured below - an all-you-can-eat alternative to iTunes, based around monthly subscriptions, confirmed for NZ), Xbox Live support, and a "People Hub" that meshes phone messaging and social network contact features. There will also be an online Picture Hub, Games Hub, and a MarketPlace Hub that operates in a similar fashion to the iTunes AppStore.
Apart from phone company support, Windows Phone 7 will also need a big push from Microsoft NZ in support of Zune, Xbox Live and other Microsoft services that will be available through the handset, and major support from local software developers (like iPhone, BlackBerry and Android, WP7 phones will be backed by an online software marketplace.)
Pros - and missing features
Datacom developer Ben Gracewood, who has been working on Windows Phone 7 apps for the past few months, praised WP7 handsets’ ability to keep up-to-date with the latest version of Microsoft’s software. He contrasts this with the fragmented nature of the Google Android handset market (although, against this, NBR would note Google’s more hands-off approach has seen more A-list phone makers back its Android software, including Motorola and Sony-Ericsson. So far, Microsoft’s launch line-up is dominated by handsets from its perennial partner, Taiwan’s HTC, plus some from LG, Samsung and Dell).
US PC World has lavished praise on HTC's flagship Windows Phone 7 handset, the HD7, but bemoaned the lack of support for multitasking, Flash, HTML5, or cut-and-paste (the latter is apparently coming in a new year update).
But to finish on a piece of good news: a Twitter client - conspicuously absent in pre-launch displays of WP7 - was present and correct for today's announcement (although it's not yet on the WP7 marketplace. Come on Microsoft. Ducks. Row. Etc.).
Technologizer Windows Phone 7 Handsets: Initial Questions and Answers
Ben.Geek Windows Phone 7 NZ launch details
pcworld.com HTC's Windows Phone 7 Shines: Hands-On with the HD7
pcworld.com Windows Phone 7: Problems Out of the Gate
pcworld.com Smackdown: Windows Phone 7 Phones vs iPhone 4 vs Droid X
Engadget Windows 7 launch round up (including apps preview)\
Microsoft.com Official launch announcement (including launch partners and handset line-up)
Thu, 21 Oct 2010