Microsoft today unveiled the rollout plans for its long-promised smartphone platform Windows Phone 7. There will be nine different phone models featuring the software for sale starting Nov. 8. Participating manufacturers include LG, Samsung, HTC and Dell. Supporting wireless networks include AT&T and T-Mobile.

With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is entering an already crowded and competitive market. According to Gartner Research, the Nokia/Symbian platform rules the worldwide smartphone marketshare at 41%, with Blackberry at 18%, Google's Android at 17%, Apple's iPhone at 14%, and Windows device at a lowly 5%. So as the No. 5 entrant, Microsoft has its work cut out.

The company says it plans to set itself apart by offering more personalization and customization options in a simple and clean interface. The app store model that lets users choose which features they want to download on their devices certainly allows all a level of customization and personalization, but the experience can be rather cluttered and the apps don't always work well together.

Microsoft's is attempting to leapfrog this stage with a more integrated approach, such as pulling Facebook photos into the contacts app, or surfacing the album art of the last song played in the Zune music service to users' profiles, or simply listing voicemail and text message notifications to the home screen.

But the key to the platforms success will be how well it integrates with other applications. The device already features music apps like Slacker, iheartradio and MusiXMatch, as well as others like Netflix, Twitter, and Facebook. The tightest integrtation - no surprise - is with other Microsoft services, including the Bing search engine, Xbox Live gaming and entertainment system, and the Zune music service.

Microsoft has a developer program in full swing for additional third-party apps, but doesn't seem to be as aggressive about quantity as Apple and Android are with their platforms.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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