NEW YORK (AFP) – Microsoft unveiled a new mobile phone operating system Monday in a bid to regain ground lost to the iPhone, Blackberry and devices powered by Google's Android software.
Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer took the wraps off nine mobile phones powered by Windows Phone 7 (WP7) during an event held at a loft in New York's Chelsea neighborhood.
Ballmer said more than 60 mobile operators around the world will offer the devices, made by South Korea's Samsung and LG Electronics, Taiwan's HTC and US computer giant Dell, in more than 30 countries.
"We have built a different kind of a phone," Ballmer said. "We set out to build a phone that was thoroughly modern."
With WP7, Microsoft is emphasizing personalization and customization, the company's CEO said.
"We focused on the things that real people really want to use," he added. "We really put our energy into bringing together the things that you love."
Smartphones powered by WP7 will run email from various services -- not just Microsoft's Hotmail -- integrate calendars, contacts and social networks and allow for documents to be viewed, edited and shared using Microsoft Office.
WP7, which represents a shift for Microsoft from the enterprise market to the consumer, will also allow users to tap into Microsoft's Zune music player platform and to access mobile versions of Xbox 360 games.
Joe Belfiore, the Windows Phone corporate vice president, demonstrated how the WP7-powered phones integrates with Zune and Xbox Live.
"My phone is like a giant virtual jukebox," Belfiore said. "It's a killer experience."
He said videogame publisher Electronic Arts had signed on as a WP7 gaming partner and gave a short demonstration of a popular EA title, the "Sims."
US telecom carrier AT&T showed off three devices -- the Samsung Focus, the LG Quantum and the HTC 7 Surround -- that will sell for around 200 dollars in the United States, about the same price as Apple's latest iPhone.
Another US carrier, T-Mobile, will offer two WP7-powered devices in November, the HTC HD7 and the HTC Mozart.
Some of the smartphones feature touchscreens like the iPhone while others have keyboards like the Blackberry from Canada's Research In Motion.
WP7 is Microsoft's first significant update to its mobile operating system in 18 months and its release comes on the heels of the disastrous launch of a "Kin" line of phones, which were pulled from stores after just two months.
Though mobile makes up only one percent of Microsoft's revenue, the smartphone market is growing by around 30 percent a year and the software behemoth is determined to remain a player in the sector.
Analysts see WP7 as a potentially make-or-break effort by the company to remain relevant in the highly competitive market.
According to technology research firm Gartner, Microsoft's share of the worldwide mobile operating system market will fall to 4.7 percent this year from 8.7 percent last year.
While Microsoft is lagging in the smartphone race, Google's Android platform is expanding rapidly.
Android-powered smartphones were the most popular among US consumers over the past six months ahead of the Blackberry and the iPhone, according to a study released last week by the Nielsen Co.
Thirty-two percent of new smartphone buyers in the United States purchased a handset running Android during the period, Nielsen said, while 26 percent chose the Blackberry and 25 percent chose the iPhone.