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Article

Microsoft, Like Mao, Begins its Long March

Redmond tries try to push back the collective forces of Apple, Google and RIM.

Microsoft Monday began its version of Mao’s Long March to relocate its mobile base around its new Windows Phone 7 operating system, dig in away from its disastrous market share losses and – armed with a $100 million marketing budget – try to push back the collective forces of Apple, Google and RIM.

It is widely considered its last chance, a particularly important last chance since Gartner predicts that phone sales will overtake PC sales in a couple of years. Microsoft claims it’s a different experience.

The thing breaks with the usual smartphone icons in favor of horizontal and vertical scrolling menus, supposedly more efficient “tiles” or boxes that alert the user to new information like weather updates, news, the status of friends and appointments. They can just as easily be applications, web sites or music.

It’s customizable so different phones will be different. It includes messaging and integrates with social networks and with Microsoft’s own web-enabled cloud-based One Note software (with Word-like spell checking), Exchange for e-mail, SharePoint for document sharing, Xbox for games, Zune for music and video playback, and Bing search and maps.

Microsoft didn’t think cutting and pasting would be necessary, but has found out otherwise so there will be a software update early next year.

At a press conference in New York Microsoft said that the first US handset, Samsung’s Focus, would be out on November 8 on AT&T’s network. Some phones will be available in Europe October 21. AT&T will also sell LG’s Quantum and HTC’s Surround as they become available next month. They will cost $200 plus a two-year contract and users will be able to download TV shows to the things for a fee complements of AT&T U-verse.

T-Mobile will follow AT&T later this year with Sprint and Verizon (which is supposed to have the best coverage in the US) joining in next year when Microsoft can support them.

Altogether there should be nine phones, all based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon ARM chip, out in America including one from Dell on its web site, some with Blackberry-like keyboards, others with touchscreens.

Microsoft stores will handle some of them. So should Amazon.

They will need a new library of applications since older Windows Mobile software won’t work. Maybe there’ll be a couple of hundred to start. Electronic Arts, for instance, has promised a portfolio of Xbox Live-enabled games. There’s a tool kit reminiscent of other Microsoft tools. Apple has 250,000 apps, Android 70,000.

The widgetry is supposed to hit 30 countries across 60 carriers by the end of the year including America Movil in Latin America, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Singapore Telecommunications, Telstra and Vodafone.

Oh, yes, and there’s a free Find My Phone service that can remotely ring, lock, erase and show the location of your phone on a map. Steve Jobs would have found that handy when his precious iPhone prototype went missing.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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