October 11 was the official Microsoft launch of Windows Phone 7. I asked readers what they wanted to know and have gotten a number of questions about Microsoft's strategy, the products and the future. Here are the answers I've been able to get (so far).
1. When can I buy a Windows Phone 7 in the U.S.?
A: One model -- the Samsung Focus on AT&T, will be available on November 8. "A few weeks" later, expect the LG Quantum and HTC Surround (both on AT&T). T-mobile officials said the HTC HD7 will be available in "mid-November." There will be nine WP7 models available in the U.S. by November, Microsoft officials said.No word yet on availability of unlocked WP7 phones (and how much those might cost.) Update: Amazon is listing unlocked HTC handsets for the European market ranging in the $685 (U.S.) to $800-plus range, as Engadget is reporting.
2. Is Verizon on board with Windows 7 for sure?
A: Yes (in spite of the Kin debaucle). Verizon and Sprint are both on tap to offer Windows Phone 7 devices some time in 2011, according to a brief mention in Microsoft's press release. No word if this means early, mid-, or late-2011. The first Windows Phone 7 devices are GSM-only, as Microsoft officials previously admitted; CDMA support is a next-year thing.
3. Who is the target audience for these phones?
A: While Microsoft would undoubtedly love to sway iPhone, Droid, RIM and other smartphone users to WP7, the main target is the feature phone user. There are a lot more of those folks out there who aren't wedded to a particular smartphone platform/carrier yet. The question is -- as it was with the discontinued Kin -- will these users be willing to pay $200-plus for a smartphone. (That's the price AT&T has said it will charge for its first three Windows Phone 7 phones.) Microsoft's first WP7 ads are emphasizing the devices' simpler, less cluttered, and (supposedly) more intuitive interface as a selling point.
4. If I already subsubscribe to ZunePass, do I need to buy another subscription for my Windows Phone 7 device?
A: No. The same ZunePass subscription, activated by the same Windows Live ID, that works on your media player or Xbox will work on Windows Phone 7. (It must be the same Live ID, however; if you have more than one connected to various accounts, only the one used for ZunePass will work on the phone.) If you don't want to subscribe to the $15-per-month ZunePass, you'll still be able to buy individual songs, movies and TV shows for your phone via ZunePass. You also will be able to get music/video content from third-party providers, including Netflix, YouTube, Slacker, Spotify and more on Windows Phone 7s. You also can play iTunes-purchased music/movies on WP7 if the content is MP3. If it is Apple-DRM'd content, it won't work on WP7.
5. Can I get turn-by-turn directions on Windows Phone 7?
A: Windows Phone 7 does not offer voice-cued turn-by-turn navigation out of the box. However, it may be available as an additional service through Windows Phone Marketplace or our mobile operator partners, according to the Softies. No further details at this point. Update: MSP System architect Andrew Willett says Orange will be providing turn-by-turn via Orange Maps. And AT&T has its own turn-by-turn map capability which may be part of some WP7 phones.
6. What's really there for business users in version one of the phones?
A: The Office hub is the synchronization point for business users who want to review (and do some light edits) to documents. Office Mobile -- a version of Microsoft's core Office apps for WP7 is the centerpiece. OneNote is the primary/default app for the hub and it may be pinned to a user's interface as a Tile. SharePoint synchronization is built into the Office Hub release, allowing users to read (but not check out) documents stored on their SharePoint servers at the office. There is some Office Web Apps integration built into the Office hub, but it sounds like seamless integration between SkyDrive and the phones won't be coming until a future release.
7. What's next? When's Windows Phone 8 coming?
A: Microsoft officials said today there will be an update coming to Windows Phone 7 users in "early 2011" that will provide copy-and-paste functionality. Updates will be delivered directly to phones (with carriers being able to put fewer holds/delays on them) when they are ready. Updates will be pushed via the Zune PC client for operating-system, app and game updates. Regarding Windows Phone 8, Microsoft execs aren't talking. But I'm wagering "Stella" may be a possibility, named for Stella Pizza, a secret meeting spot close to the phone launch site.
What else do you still want to know about Windows Phone 7?
More Windows Phone 7 launch coverage:
Hands-on review: T-Mobile's HTC HD7 with Windows Phone 7
Gallery Tour: A first look at the Windows Phone 7 line-up
For Windows Phone 7, all of Microsoft comes to play
Microsoft's goal with Windows Phone 7: Disrupt the category