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First reviews of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 find it lacking


Early reviews of Microsoft's re-entry into the smartphone operating system market have been impressed with some of Microsoft's user interface decisions, but see the company as having a long way to go to catch up to Apple's iPhone.

Major media outlets and blogs began posting on Wednesday mostly mixed reviews of Microsoft's new mobile operating system, which is set to launch in the U.S. on Nov. 8.

Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal called the interface "novel and attractive," but noted that it was missing several key features, including copy and paste, visual voicemail, third-party app multitasking and video calling. Mossberg points out that Apple and Google, with a several year head start on Microsoft, have had plenty of time to incrementally add features to their mobile operating systems. Microsoft has said that a copy and paste add-on is in the works, but, for now, Mossberg isn't ready to recommend Windows Phone 7 as "on par" with iPhone or Android.

Microsoft is experiencing similar version 1.0 issues as Apple did when it first released the iPhone in 2007. The original iPhone lacked copy and paste and multitasking until the Cupertino, Calif., company added the features in later versions of its iOS software. Video calling was added to the iPhone this summer through the FaceTime standard on the iPhone 4.

Mossberg isn't the only journalist to express doubt about the new Windows handsets. Associated Press technology writer Rachel Metz found Windows Phone 7 "pleasantly easy to use" because of its tight consumer focus, calling it good but not phenomenal. Metz doubts that Microsoft's innovations will be enough to sway consumers, who have been exposed to ads for iPhone and Android for years.

In their reviews, both Metz and Mossberg expressed concern over the dearth of apps in Microsoft's app store, dubbed Marketplace. At the time of review, Marketplace had "just a few hundred apps" listed. Microsoft promises to add "hundreds" of apps every week before the end of the year, but the Redmond, Wash., software giant will be hard-pressed to catch up to Apple's App Store, which boasts over 300,000 apps.

Several blogs were hesitant to recommend Windows Phone 7 because of the features it is missing. In its review, Engadget felt that there were "holes" in the OS and that the OS was "a good year behind market leaders right now." Author Joshua Topolsky noted having trouble with third-party apps, especially news readers, crashing. Windows Phone 7 doesn't exactly have the "fit and finish of a fully realized product," wrote Topolsky.

MobileCrunch was also unable to recommend the Windows Phone 7 in its current state, saying the "a pretty face" is the only thing that WP7 offers over its competition. The reviewer notes a number of positive aspects of Microsoft's new mobile OS, saying "what it does, it does pretty dang well." However, in the end, author Greg Kumparak can't get past the fact that people have been complaining about these missing features on the iPhone and Android for years.

Analysts have characterized the Windows Phone 7 release as a "last-ditch attempt" to regain its footing in the mobile space. Microsoft's Chief Software Architect resigned earlier this week, just a week after the company's unveiling of its Windows Phone 7 lineup was met with a lukewarm response.