Windows Phone 7 to launch Monday amid crowded smartphone market

Success of new mobile OS considered vital to Microsoft (see video, below)

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Also on Monday, Microsoft will offer some hands-on experience with its consumer lineup, including WP7, Kinect, Bing, Xbox and "others," a spokeswoman said. A "global portfolio" of WP7 devices from various manufacturers will be shown in a separate location. On Tuesday, third-party developers will meet with Microsoft to learn more about WP7 on its final lineup of devices.

Aside from Microsoft's problems with Kin and its previous Windows Mobile OS, there are other questions over WP7.

How will developers react?

Developers, so far, have downloaded more than 500,000 copies of tools to help them build WP7 applications. Experts noted that the applications already written for the existing Windows Mobile OS must be heavily rewritten for WP7, and some developers are unhappy about that.

While some large third-party development houses, such as Travelocity, will build applications for WP7 phones, it's less clear whether small development shops will be able to handle the development process.

"The jury's out," said Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark, a mobile application developer, who commented this week at CTIA in San Francisco. "Coming out of this economy, developers don't randomly build stuff."

How many apps will be ready for WP7?

Microsoft is not saying how many applications will be available to WP7 on Monday through its online Windows Phone Marketplace. The question is an important one, since too few could spell disaster, Llamas said, pointing out that the Palm Pre launched in 2009 with only 32 applications.

"Microsoft deserves congratulations for [the] downloads of the developer tools, but I would hope they have more than the 32 apps that Palm Pre had," Llamas said. "They need a goodly number, although I don't expect 100,000."

What carriers will support WP7?

Other than saying AT&T will attend the Monday event, Microsoft hasn't specifically named the first wireless carriers of its phones, although in February it called the four major U.S. carriers its "partners" in WP7. AT&T, a GSM carrier, is expected to be joined eventually by T-Mobile, another big GSM carrier, as well as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, which both run on CDMA.

However, Verizon carried the botched Kin, which apparently has strained its relationship with Microsoft. A Verizon executive earlier this week said Verizon's business customers aren't sure what to expect from WP7. "It's fallen off the radar for enterprise customers," said Michael Tighe, Verizon's executive director of business solutions.

The carriers are key to any phone's success. Verizon Wireless was accused of hurting the Kin by selling the Kin phones, which did not run games, with a full smartphone monthly data subscription starting at $70, something that caused young buyers to balk. AT&T presumably will not face that problem, since WP7 specifications are expected to support a range of typical smartphone apps.

Llamas said Verizon, the nation's largest carrier, could come back on board with WP7, however, possibly with a faster LTE wireless version in 2011.

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