Microsoft Corp. is taking the wraps off the first batch of Windows Phone 7 smart phones Monday at a press event in New York.
Microsoft hasn't been shy about showing off the software that it hopes will put its mobile business back in the running against Apple Inc., maker of the iPhone, and Google Inc., which makes the Android phone software.
But the company has not officially announced what hardware makers will be producing phones for the holiday shopping season or what carriers will support Windows phones. Taiwan's HTC Corp. is likely one of the companies that will produce a Windows Phone 7 handset. Both AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA are rumored to be Microsoft's carrier partners.
Microsoft has hurdles to overcome. In the second quarter, Windows Mobile, Microsoft's existing phone system, accounted for only about 5 percent of smart phones sold worldwide, compared with 41 percent for Nokia Corp.'s Symbian system, 18 percent for Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry phones, 17 percent for Android and 14. percent for iPhone.
The iPhone and Android are popular in part because of the tens of thousands of tiny applications, or "apps," made by outside software developers. But those developers may not want to devote the resources to build programs for another smart phone system until it gains traction with users.
In the past, Microsoft focused narrowly on building phone software, giving handset makers and wireless carriers lots of leeway to adapt and customize their products. In the wake of the iPhone's success, Microsoft has adjusted its strategy, retaining more control over the way the phones look and work.
The iPhone prompted a generation of look-alike smart phones, with screenfuls of tiny square icons representing each program. Microsoft has tried to avoid an icon-intensive copy, instead relying more on clickable words and images generated by content. For example, a weather program might show a constantly updated snapshot of weather conditions; photo or music libraries would be represented by a recent snapshot or the cover of the last album played on the device.
Windows Phone 7 borrows its aesthetic from the company's Zune media players, and the entertainment "hub" on the phone is based on the Zune the say way the music on the iPhone is filed under the "iPod" section. Many other Microsoft programs and services come built in on the new phones _ there's a mobile version of the Bing search engine, for example, and a games "hub" that can connect to Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming community.