Update: Our reaction here: Microsoft is back in the mobile business.
LIVE coverage below. All paraphrased unless in quotation marks. Refresh or click here for the latest.
9:00 Waiting for presentation to begin.
9:08 The music has changed. Time to begin?
9:10 Press release just hit my inbox. The Windows Phone 7 Series Web site is up. It’s all about HUBS! “Windows Phone 7 Series creates an unrivalled set of integrated experiences on a phone through Windows Phone hubs”
9:11 OK, it’s starting. Ballmer on stage in a blue shirt and red tie.
9:13 Joe Belfiore out. Been at Microsoft for a long time. Worked on Zune! Came onto team about 1.5 years ago. Microsoft had “opportunity to change.” Looked at trends in smartphones. Power and capability out on the Web. Phones “looked like PCs” but a phone is just not a PC. But other smartphones all looked the same.
9:14 Wanted to make a phone for the user. Now showing video.
9:17 Want to make something unique and individual. Smart design that puts user as centre of the experience. Moves beyond apps, brings key things important to people forward. Integrated experiences.
9:18 Three buttons on the front. Start, search, and back. All devices touch enabled with big capacitive screens.
9:19 Wanted device to be deeply personal, relevant to your daily life. It should dynamically change. And wanted experience to be delightful and phone. Phone is intimate piece of hardware. It’s an expression of your personality, should make people smile when they use it.
9:20 Now a live demo. Going to walk through some of the experiences. “Live tiles.”
9:21 Lots of tiles. People, games, etc.
9:22 Touch a “broken heart” image to delete someone from your live tiles. You can put people on here. Apps. Playlist of the music you most want to listen to.
9:23 Now looking at calendar. Includes both personal and work (Exchange) calendars. Smart.
9:24 Seeing an “app bar” at the bottom. Really enjoying this simple UI versus something too beveled and shiny. A lot easier to keep something very simple working nicely.
9:25 Looking at Bing map. Map turns from map into satellite as you zoom in. Supports multi-touch.
9:27 Using Steve Jobs’ favourite search term for local restaurants: “Sushi”. Brings back local results.
9:29 Pulling in live reviews from partners like Yelp.
9:30 New browser based on desktop Internet Explorer code. What, you thought it’d be Webkit? You can zoom all the way in on text!
9:32 Looking at Mail. Works like Outlook on the desktop. Very simple UI. Tried to pay really close attention to details.
9:33 Talking about “integrated experiences.” Destination for each of the most common tasks: Pictures, people, etc. “Hubs.” The idea of a “hub” is to organise data into single place you can have efficient, fast, fun, ease of use.
9:34 Walking us through 5 hubs. People is first. Fundamentally a phone is about connecting with people. Looking at PC: Outlook, Facebook, Webmail services like Gmail etc. On the PC, really OK to switch between these separately. But the phone is just not a PC. (FINALLY Microsoft understands this.)
9:36 People hub has list of all your people, from all different sources. In the middle, you.
9:37 It’s a panorama.
9:37 Can zoom around between people and see their status updates across social networks, Windows Live, etc.
9:38 Next up is Pictures. Synced from PC or taken with phone camera. Includes a “what’s new” feed to see whose photos have been posted lately.
9:40 Add a Facebook account one time and you get access to those photos, too.
9:41 Talking about Office. The Office hub together with Outlook brings all that stuff together in one place. Can create notes by typing, pictures, voice.
9:42 Now talking about music and video. Loves Pandora.
9:44 Every Windows 7 series phone will be a Zune. Full, rich way of putting music and video on device. Also lets third party apps and services work their way in. Pandora station in the music pane.
9:46 Showing the benefit of having both a PC and new Windows 7 mobile. Zune software pops up. This is smart — one of Microsoft’s big potentials for upside. Similar UI on PC and phone, also smart.
9:48 Games. Games have been huge on phones. Of course he plays games on Xbox too. Bringing together. Games hub features Xbox live service and games.
9:49 Social gaming requests built right in. Premium titles authored for Xbox live.
9:50 Main takeaway: Trying to take rich capability of stuff out on the Web and applications, and brings stuff together, so phone becomes unique and intimate reflection of who they are. Integrated experiences among most common tasks. Different kind of phone that will work great for busy people. Easy to use and delightful and something new.
9:51 Now showing another video before Ballmer comes back out. Disses Apple “focus on apps over the phone experience itself.”
9:52 Happy woman in video:
9:53 Ballmer is back. No doubt this market is highly competitive, highly dynamic, and SUPER EXCITING. No question in our mind that we needed and wanted to do some things that were out of the box. Clearly differentiated from our past. Clearly differentiated from other things going on in the market. Will still invest in Windows Mobile 6.5.
9:54 Thought about things like minimum hardware requirements. Thought about design, taking next step in integrating experiences for end user into the phone.
9:55 At the end of the day, I think we all understand that in the business of IT, integration of developers is super important. Raised the platform on which people can build. The OS and integrated services people can extend.
9:57 Want to raise the bar, a little more consistency for hardware and user interface. But want to see LOTS of different form factors, diversity. Greater consistency and almost more innovation in terms of what you can expect in terms of form and feel and industrial design.
9:58 With operators, wanted to raise the bar, but also let operators show off where they shine.
9:59 No question we had to step back about 1.5-2 years ago, recast strategy and design approach, but well on our way to making progress. Now inviting mobile communications guy Andy Lees out to talk.
10:01 Considered making own phone, but sticking with partner ecosystem instead. (For now?)
10:02 Have not changed importance of partners. But have changed how we work with them. Goal with Windows Phone 7 series is to improve quality, consistency. Strive for synergy where whole is more than the sum of the parts. “New way for the ecosystem to come together.”
10:03 Partners: Qualcomm on core silicon. LG, Toshiba, Sony Ericsson, Samsung, HTC, HP, Dell, Garmin Asus. (Motorola is missing.) Core hardware spec. Four-point multi-touch. Sensors like accelerometers and compasses. Also developing more of total software. Drivers, UI consistent on every phone. Cheaper and faster ways for OEMs to build phones.
10:06 Operators who will launch: Orange, T-Mobile, Telefonica, Sprint, AT&T, Vodafone, Verizon Wireless, Telstra, Telecom Italia. Deeply engaged, investing together with full experience across range of phones, with AT&T and Orange.
10:08 AT&T the “premier” partner for U.S. launch. Preparing for life after the iPhone exclusive is over?
10:11 Orange rep rambling about customer service. Getting people excited about mobile internet.
10:13 Ballmer: Unique opportunity if we bring everything together in the right way with new UI. Enthusiastic about new direction.
10:15 Plan is to have phones on the market by holiday season 2010. Wanted to get out, show you what we have, rather than it drip out with various leaks.
10:16 Q&A begins. Ballmer drinking from a blue water bottle.
10:17 Why not make it free to OEMs? Not going to happen. Like our model. We compete with vertical competitors and really just one or two free options.
10:18 Maggie Reardon from CNET: With Windows 7, talking a lot about consistency. How will you let OEMs customise? User experience is extensible rather than having to be replaced.
10:20 Hey, we did this with DOS. Not a big deal.
10:20 Adobe Flash support? We have no OBJECTION! Steve says. But in V1, no support for Flash.