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Can the Windows Phone 7 Handsets Stand Up to Apple's iPhone?

Everywhere you go, consumers can be seen using their smartphones to make calls, to send text messages, to answer e-mails, to surf the Web, and to play video games. But more often than not, these consumers aren't using just any smartphone available – they're using an iPhone.

Over the last few years, Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has pushed the iPhone with incremental updates that keep consumers coming back for every iteration. While this may annoy those who would rather not purchase a new phone every year, the reality is that when Apple launched the iPhone it was the most groundbreaking smartphone available. This allows the company to stay ahead of the curve, even as the competition continues to increase.

Still, that hasn't stopped Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) from dreaming of the day when it could release a stellar touch-based device of its own. On November 8th, the company might get one step closer to realizing that dream with the release of several Windows Phone 7 handsets.

AT&T customers can get their hands on three handsets – the Samsung Focus, the HTC Surround, and the LG Quantum – each carrying a $199 price tag (with a two-year contract). Each phone also includes a 1GHz Snapdragon processor and a five-megapixel camera.

Not to be left out, T-Mobile will offer two handsets – the HTC HD7 and the Dell Venus Pro – that contain a 4.3-inch touch screen display, HD video recording (720p), 16GBs of storage, and integrated Netflix streaming (with a Netflix subscription, of course). These phones will also come with T-Mobile TV, a free programming service that streams content from Fox Sports, ABC News, and other networks.

Aside from a few minor differences (ex: if you want a slide-out keyboard, go with the LG Quantum), the phones appear to have been collectively designed to combat the iPhone with the same list of features. Thus far, those features include the typical touch screen mechanics you're used to, as well as an interesting presentational element called hubs.

Microsoft plans to use the hubs to enhance the user experience. For example, the video game hub will reportedly tie into Xbox Live, the company's massively successful online game service for Xbox 360. Meanwhile, the Zune hub will allow users to stream music in a cloud environment, allowing them to listen right away (provided that they have a Zune Pass).

Without question, this sounds very intriguing. But thus far, Microsoft hasn't shown anything that blows the competition – be it the iPhone, Blackberry or Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android – out of the water. This could spell trouble for the first run of Windows Phone 7 handsets, as they may not offer enough unique elements to persuade new phone buyers from going straight to Apple. At this point, it seems very unlikely that Microsoft will be able to win over any of Apple's existing customers.

One thing that could help turn the tide in Microsoft's favor is the promise of an impressive Office suite (featuring Word, Excel and OneNote documents) and the claim that you'll be able to play multiplayer games online using Xbox Live. If done properly, the latter feature would surely attract the game-playing market, which would in turn convince game developers to build exclusive titles for the Windows Phone 7 platform.

At this point, however, that seems to be somewhat of a fantasy. Microsoft has been hyping the prospect of a mobile Xbox Live for several years. Will that hype finally end on November 8th? Let's hope it does. But if not, we can be sure the hype will continue through the inevitable release of Windows Phone 8.

Posted-In: Apple Google Microsoft Office Windows Phone 7Long Ideas Tech Trading Ideas

 

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