Microsoft plots smartphone market breakthrough

Microsoft has stepped up its attempt to gain traction in the mobile phone market with the launch of the "next generation" Windows Phone.

A year ago, the software giant's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, unveiled the Windows Phone, running on software dubbed Windows 6.5, at the Mobile World Congress. Despite deals with a series of heavyweight handset makers and operators, the Windows Phone has failed to take off as a serious competitor to the iPhone or Android-based devices, so yesterday the company tried again.

Mr Ballmer showed off a prototype of the new and improved Windows Phone at this year's MWC, which is now running Windows Mobile 7 operating software. The company has overhauled everything from the look and layout to the device's speed.

Ben Wood, an analyst at CCS Insight, called it "a big step," adding: "6.5 was the evolution of legacy services. With Windows Mobile 7 they have ripped up the book and brought the best people in to develop it."

He added that the group had tightened its control over what operators and handset makers can do with the software, in a parallel to Apple's attitude. The company has also brought the Xbox LIVE and Zune on to the phones for the first time, although the music service will not be available in the UK.

Handset makers have started building the phones, which will be available by summer.

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