SINGAPORE--Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system (OS) will be officially launched in Singapore, Australia and New Zealand on Oct. 21 alongside handsets from HTC, LG Electronics, Dell Computer and Samsung.
Tang Tuan Choon, senior marketing manager of enterprise mobility for Microsoft Asia's mobile communications business, disclosed that Redmond will be bringing the OS to 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific market. Singapore, Australia and New Zealand will see Microsoft-funded marketing activities to mark the official launch, while availability in the other Asia-Pacific markets will depend on local operators and handset makers.
Speaking to ZDNet Asia at the sidelines of a media briefing here Tuesday, Tang said the three markets were selected as initial launch destinations because of their market maturity and "very good" adoption of smartphones. In addition, he noted that mobile operators in these markets play a major role in the distribution of handsets, particularly in the way they offer consumers subsidies when purchasing mobile devices to drive uptake.
The three markets are also predominantly English-speaking, a factor that is in line with the company's strategy to launch the phones in countries that speak English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, he added.
That said, Tang revealed that the remaining seven Asia markets will see the deployment of Windows Phone 7-based phones "very soon" after the first three markets receive theirs. The 10 Asia markets will be joined by 20 other countries worldwide to usher the mobile OS into the industry, the company stated.
Microsoft said handset makers and telcos in Asia-Pacific markets such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong will be bringing in Windows Phone 7-based smartphones to their respective markets at the end of October too, but Redmond will not be involved in their launch activities.
Strong telco support
In Singapore, Microsoft will collaborate "strongly" with Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) to bring handsets from partnering phonemakers such as HTC, LG, Samsung and Dell to consumers, said Jessica Tan, managing director of Microsoft Singapore, who was also at the briefing.
She noted that SingTel will be the first operator to carry Windows Phone 7-based smartphones come Oct. 21, but added that the other two local operators--StarHub and M1--will also distribute these phones at a later date. However, specific launch dates for both operators have yet to be announced.
The SingTel partnership is significant in that Microsoft will leverage the carrier's AMPed social music service to plug a current gap in its Windows Phone 7 ecosystem--the ability to purchase music via Zune.
According to Tan, Microsoft's Zune music purchasing platform will not be made available to Singapore or "many of the other Asia-Pacific countries", and there are no plans at the moment to bring the service to more markets in the region.
"It is not to say that we can't support Zune here in Asia, but due to the complex copyright and licensing environment here, these issues pose a challenge for us," she noted.
She pointed to AMPed as a workaround, adding that Windows Phone users can turn to the SingTel platform for their music needs.
Tang noted, however, that the Zune software will still be the "synchronization platform" for users to manage their apps and media content, as well as for Microsoft and telcos to push out software updates--similar to Apple's iTunes platform.
Mac users will likely have to make use of their Boot Camp feature to run the Windows OS on their laptops and desktops in order to access Zune as the software is not supported by the Mac OS, he added.
Yuen Kuan Moon, SingTel's executive vice president of consumer group, also pointed to the carrier's MobileTV video streaming service as another app that will populate the Windows Marketplace on the Oct. 21 launch date. This will provide content such as live broadcast of Barclay's Premier League matches to users on their mobile phones, Yuen added.
Besides SingTel's own apps, Tan added that 20 local apps will be available on the Windows Marketplace at launch. Windows Phone users will also have access to international apps.
Chris Chin, developer marketing director for mobile communications at Microsoft Asia-Pacific and Greater China, told ZDNet Asia that while no global developers are currently working specifically on producing content for Windows Phone 7, there are about 2,000 developers in the Asia-Pacific region creating software for the platform.
Chin, who is responsible for app development in Asia-Pacific, said he is noticing a "strong momentum" among Microsoft's existing base of .Net developers as well as a "loyal" group of Windows Mobile developers working on the Windows Phone platform.
He added that mobile developers building on other platforms have also been migrating to the Windows Phone 7 ecosystem due to the "frustrations" they have experience while working on Google's Android or Apple's iOS platforms.
"These are developers that have found competing platforms awkward due to fragmentation, tight controls and an approval process that's not transparent," noted Chin.
LG parades Optimus 7
One of the first to partner Microsoft after the decision to develop the mobile OS, LG also took the opportunity to launch its Windows Phone 7-based LG Optimus 7 smartphone here on Tuesday.
Nam Young Woo, president and CEO of LG Electronics Asia, said the company has been working closely with Microsoft since 2009 to come up with a handset that is optimized for the Windows OS. The effort saw 250 and 120 engineers from LG and Microsoft, respectively, collaborating to design the smartphone, Nam said.
According to Arthur Huang, COO of LG Electronics Singapore, Optimus 7 boasts features such as LG's ScanSearch augmented reality application, which derives its capability from the Windows OS's digital compass--a feature that only LG has access to.
The LG handset will be available in Singapore and Australia by end-October, while India will be the next in line to welcome the device at the end of December, Huang added.
Asked how the new Windows OS fits into LG's overall mobile strategy, Chang Ma, the Korean company's vice president of marketing strategy, told ZDNet Asia that as OS has just been rolled out, it is "too early" to say how many of its handsets will be powered by Windows Phone 7.
"We will continue to evaluate our partnership with Microsoft and keep pace with the company's developments," Ma said.
He also pointed to the company's Android-powered Optimus One, which was launched last month, as an indication the company is not just focusing on the new OS. By tapping both OSes, LG customers will benefit from the choices available to them, he added.
Besides LG, OEM partners Samsung, HTC and Dell also announced they will have handsets powered by Windows Phone 7 at the launch date or slightly after, announced Microsoft's Tan.