Microsoft has announced the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Phone 7, their last great hope to recover their position in the smartphone market:
Today is the day that the Windows Phone team has been driving towards, and we’re very excited to say that we’ve reached the biggest milestone for our internal team – the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Windows Phone 7! While the final integration of Windows Phone 7 with our partners’ hardware, software, and networks is underway, the work of our internal engineering team is largely complete.
Windows Phone 7 is the most thoroughly tested mobile platform Microsoft has ever released. We had nearly ten thousand devices running automated tests daily, over a half million hours of active self-hosting use, over three and a half million hours of stress test passes, and eight and a half million hours of fully automated test passes. We’ve had thousands of independent software vendors and early adopters testing our software and giving us great feedback. We are ready.
Now the question is when partnering cell phone hardware vendors and service providers will be ready to launch some Windows Phone 7 phones. The consensus is before the end of the year and perhaps as soon as October. Early reviews range from the dismal to mildly favorable although the missing features enumerated in the latter are a trifle disconcerting.
Microsoft’s KIN phone didn’t last long – it was announced in April and killed today in favor of the mainline Windows Phone program:
Amid anemic sales, Microsoft has decided to halt work on its Kin phone less than two months after the product hit the market.
The social media-oriented phone will not make its planned European debut and Microsoft is shifting the entire Kin team to work on Windows Phone 7, the Microsoft smartphone operating system due out later this year. Andy Lees, who heads up the company’s cell phone efforts announced the move to Microsoft workers earlier on Wednesday, according to a source close to the company.
A Microsoft spokesman later confirmed the news.
With Microsoft’s decision, it is now unclear whether there will ever be software updates to the phone, including one originally planned for this summer. Over the weekend, Verizon cut the price on the two Kin models by as much as 50 percent.
Microsoft won’t say how much it spent on the Kin launch, but it has been backed by significant TV, Web, and print and radio advertising campaigns.
Neither Verizon nor Microsoft would say how many devices were sold, but a source told CNET that the number of Kins sold thus far is more than 1,000 but south of 10,000–significantly below expectations.
"We don’t share sales data or marketing strategies but the device remains an important part of our portfolio," a Verizon representative said in a statement.
Roz Ho, the Microsoft executive who lead the unit that developed the Kin will oversee the transition of the team and then move to an as-yet-determined role at the company, according to a source.
Every company makes missteps, but this one is destined to be a classic right up there with the Edsel.
Microsoft today released Expression Studio 4, the latest version of their Web development tooling brought up to date with support for Silverlight 4, .Net Framework 4 and Visual Studio 2010 and the expected variety of feature enhancements. However, what is missing is the promised support for Windows Phone 7 development:
Microsoft is providing a timeline for when it will add Windows Phone 7 support to Expression Studio 4. Here’s a statement from a spokesperson:
“We will ship a service pack for Expression Studio 4 within the next few weeks that will include Windows Phone 7 support. Developers can now get a beta of the design tools targeted at development for Windows Phone 7, which include a free version of Expression Blend as part of the Windows Phone 7 SDK. The final version of the Windows Phone 7 SDK will be made available to developers well before the general availability of Windows Phone 7 devices in market, to ensure adequate time for development.”
And as a matter of fact, wannabe Windows Phone 7 developers should not even install the released version of Expression Studio 4. Not the best start for a new and seemingly critical release to regain Microsoft’s lost smartphone momentum.
Microsoft also took the opportunity to condense the four different packages available for Expression Studio 3 into only three for Expression Studio 4:
Q: What products are included in the Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Ultimate?
A: Expression Studio 4 Ultimate is comprised of 4 products, Expression Web 4, Microsoft Expression Blend® 4 + SketchFlow, Expression Encoder 4 Pro and Expression Design 4. Expression Blend 4 includes SketchFlow in Expression Studio 4 Ultimate product only.
Q: What products are included in the Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Premium?
A: Expression Studio 4 Premium is comprised of 4 products, Expression Web 4, Microsoft Expression Blend 4, Expression Encoder 4 and Expression Design 4. Expression Studio 4 Premium is not available for retail purchase.
Q: What products are included in the Microsoft Expression Studio 4 Web Professional?
A: Expression Studio 4 Web Professional is comprised of 3 products, Expression Web 4, Expression Encoder 4 and Expression Design 4.
Along the way however, they restricted the highly regarded SketchFlow design tool to only the high dollar Ultimate subscription. Previous users of Expression Blend 3 plus SketchFlow are understandably cranky, particularly as the change came without warning.
Microsoft today unveiled Windows Phone 7 (formerly Windows Mobile 7) and while it is chockfull of new goodies to keep them in the race with Apple’s iPhone and Google Android, do not expect to see any phones using Windows Phone 7 until the holiday shopping season:
Today at Mobile World Congress 2010, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled the next generation of Windows Phones, Windows Phone 7 Series. With this new platform, Microsoft offers a fresh approach to phone software, distinguished by smart design and truly integrated experiences that bring to the surface the content people care about from the Web and applications. For the first time ever, Microsoft will bring together Xbox LIVE games and the Zune music and video experience on a mobile phone, exclusively on Windows Phone 7 Series. Partners have already started building phones; customers will be able to purchase the first phones in stores by holiday 2010.
Some of the new features:
Windows Phone 7 Series includes six hubs built on specific themes reflecting activities that matter most to people:
People. This hub delivers an engaging social experience by bringing together relevant content based on the person, including his or her live feeds from social networks and photos. It also provides a central place from which to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live in one step.
Pictures. This hub makes it easy to share pictures and video to a social network in one step. Windows Phone 7 Series also brings together a user’s photos by integrating with the Web and PC, making the phone the ideal place to view a person’s entire picture and video collection.
Games. This hub delivers the first and only official Xbox LIVE experience on a phone, including Xbox LIVE games, Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer’s avatar, Achievements and gamer profile. With more than 23 million active members around the world, Xbox LIVE unlocks a world of friends, games and entertainment on Xbox 360, and now also on Windows Phone 7 Series.
Music + Video. This hub creates an incredible media experience that brings the best of Zune, including content from a user’s PC, online music services and even a built-in FM radio into one simple place that is all about music and video. Users can turn their media experience into a social one with Zune Social on a PC and share their media recommendations with like-minded music lovers. The playback experience is rich and easy to navigate, and immerses the listener in the content.
Marketplace. This hub allows the user to easily discover and load the phone with certified applications and games.
Office. This hub brings the familiar experience of the world’s leading productivity software to the Windows Phone. With access to Office, OneNote and SharePoint Workspace all in one place, users can easily read, edit and share documents. With the additional power of Outlook Mobile, users stay productive and up to date while on the go.
And the vendors on board:
Partners from around the world have committed to include Windows Phone 7 Series in their portfolio plans. They include mobile operators AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, and manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC Corp., HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm Inc. The first phones will be available by holiday 2010. Customers who would like to receive additional information about Windows Phone 7 Series and be notified when it is available can register at http://www.windowsphone7series.com.
So will it be enough to get Microsoft back in the smartphone game? That’s the rub and it is a bit hard to say since the only available demo devices are pre-production, development-only handsets. One key point is that "manufacturers will not be able to make massive modifications to Windows Phone" or to the fairly rigorous hardware specifications which sounds more than a bit like Windows with all its good and bad aspects for the end-user and the OEMs. At this point all I can say is that Windows Phone 7 seems quite ambitious, but it is certainly late.