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Windows Phone 7 may be contender in 2011

Microsoft announced the second act of the Windows Phone 7 strategy today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The phones will soon be available on Verizon and Sprint, Twitter will be integrated along with Facebook, and then later in the year, they'll get more powerful, with a faster Internet Explorer browser and multitasking — the ability to stream music in the background, and switch between running apps. There will even be connectivity between the Xbox Kinect system and the phones.

For those who already bought in, there's an update due in early March that will grant copy-and-paste functionality, among other things.

The company also celebrated its new partnership with Nokia, reiterating that the global partnership would help spread Windows Phone to many corners of the world where Nokia is still king.

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Andy Lees, president of the Mobile business, posted a blog item that outlined the updates (without much more detail). He went on to make the case for Windows Phone:

"Our phones are differentiated in the way they are designed, and the way that experiences are seamless and beautifully integrated," he wrote. "This focus on smart design makes it easier and faster to get to the information you care about."

It's true that Windows Phone 7 is designed for easier access to information. You can scan a variety of updated information much easier than you can on an iPhone, for instance. However, the Android platform has developed many tools that do as much, and both Android and iPhone have most of the functionality mentioned above.

While the updates will certainly close the gap between Windows Phone and its competitors, those competitors have momentum — like, runaway freight train momentum.

Nokia is certainly a smart partnership when it comes to gaining customers in Europe and other parts of the world, and Nokia's own smart phone software feels clunky and outdated compared to Windows Phone 7, so the synergy is certainly good in both directions. But Nokia has almost no smart phone presence in the U.S., and it's not clear that the once revered brand is particularly missed by Americans, in the age of Apple and Android. Besides, Microsoft says there won't be "significant volume" of Nokia Windows Phones until 2012. In the meantime, there will likely be confusion and indecision among the partnership's intended customers.

For now, it's good to know that Microsoft is working hard to improve and grow its already excellent mobile platform, but that's still no guarantee that customers will show up, money in hand, to buy the phones.

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