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10/12/2010
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Windows Phone 7 Still A Work In Progress

Ecosystem not fully developed as key features, apps, partners won't arrive in time for holiday shopping season.

Microsoft on Monday formally unveiled its Windows Phone 7 operating system, but conceded the software lacks some key features that will only show up in future updates. To boot, two major carriers--Sprint and Verizon--won't offer phones based on the OS until next year.

Microsoft's Windows 7 Revealed
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft's Windows 7 Phone Revealed

Most notably, the launch version of Windows Phone 7 does not include a copy-and-paste function that allows users to carry text across documents and applications.

It could be a significant shortcoming in the eyes of power users, particularly given that Apple's iPhone and Google's Android OS already offer such a feature.

Microsoft officials promised that users who purchase a Windows Phone 7-based device during the holiday shopping season will receive a software update early next year that enables copy-and-paste.

"This is a feature we initially did not put on the development schedule because we focused on things like automatic touching of phone numbers and touching of addresses," said Microsoft Windows Phone VP Joe Belfiore, at a launch event Monday.

"But we're hearing from our customers and we're going to get this feature in," said Belfiore. "Everyone who buys a Windows Phone this holiday will be able to get an update with copy-and-paste in early 2011," said Belfiore.

Consumers may also have to wait a while before a full range of games and productivity apps is available for Windows Phone 7, as it will take some time before developers can populate the OS's ecosystem with anywhere near the number of third-party add-ons available for the iPhone and Android platforms.

Dell's in the phone game

Electronic Arts will several games available for Windows Phone 7 when the first handsets go on sale on Nov. 8, including Need For Speed Undercover, Tetris, and The Sims 3. But the publisher's full catalog of mobile titles won't be available until at least next year.

Analysts said support from app developers is crucial if Windows Phone 7 is to help Microsoft bolster its lowly, 5% share of the worldwide mobile OS market.

Microsoft "does not have anywhere near the number of mobile applications like Apple or Google, so [Microsoft] would have to spend money to attract users, make its development process easy and open or have attractive monetization capabilities like Apple," said Wells Fargo's Jason Maynard, in a research note Monday.

Windows Phone 7 devices hit stores next month. AT&T will offer models from HTC, Samsung, and LG, while T-Mobile will stock units from HTC and Dell. Verizon and Sprint plan to begin offering Windows Phone 7 phones next year. "The absence of Sprint and Verizon at launch is notable," said Maynard.

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