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Microsoft (news, site) and many partners today launched the company's last-shot attempt to stay in the mobile game.

Struggling to Stay in the Game

As with its Internet Explorer browser, Windows Mobile-powered phones have been dropping in popularity for years. First, it was the onslaught of BlackBerry for business users, then the rise of the executive-chic iPhone and now a horde of brash Android devices. In 2004, research firm Gartner estimated that Windows for Mobile ran on almost a quarter of all handsets. As of around a year ago, that was down to less than 8%.

Can Windows Phone 7 devices claw Microsoft back into the market? It is tying in the Office suite, and business features to the phone as we saw a few months back. Add Microsoft's media and games clout into the interface and it's a compelling option, but is it enough?

Launched Today, Coming in November

The launch took place today with Steve Ballmer using the word "delightful" where Steve Jobs would say "magical." Models from LG, HTC and Samsung and others will be available for the U.S. launch on 8 November, with a December arrival in some other regions.

 

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Steve Ballmer unveils the nine launch models
 

AT&T will be one of the launch carriers who will ship three models, each with a different focal point. The HTC Surround will come with Dolby Surround Sound, the Samsung Focus has a beautiful 4" OLED screen, while the LG Quantum with a five-megapixel camera.

In total 60 mobile operators will offer Windows Mobile 7 in 30 countries with a U.K. launch on 21 October. While the essential "cut and paste" feature will be missing on launch, Windows Phones will get an over the air update soon to fix that, an improvement on the years it took Apple to launch the feature.

Enough Functionality for Business?

From the start it can be useful for the busy executive, showing next appointments and number of unread emails on the lock-screen, before you've even touched a button. Windows Phone 7 devices uses hubs to split its features into views of related information.

The demo showed Outlook integration, with scheduling conflicts for meetings, plus linking to addresses for maps and phone numbers for phone calls. A demo also showed PowerPoint presentations being edited and previewed on the go.

Unfortunately the new smartphone does have some missing functionality. Microsoft has acknowledged that cut and paste capabilities will not be available in the soon to be released version, but rather will come with the first update early next year. 

Microsoft does have the advantage of offering a mobile version of Office, and interactivity with MS Exchange, both popular in many organizations today. And with SharePoint support, there may just be enough here to win many people over. Are you one of them?