LAS VEGAS — Microsoft opened the International Consumer Electronics Show by introducing much-awaited Windows Phone devices that will struggle to close a canyon-like gap established by leaders Apple and Google.
In a keynote speech, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer announced that Nokia’s Lumia 900 and HTC Titan II phones using Windows Phones software will be offered later this year on AT&T’s 4G LTE network. Nokia’s Lumia 710, using the Windows Phones software, will be available Wednesday to T-Mobile USA customers.
With wide screens that recognize voice and touch, the Windows smartphones are focused on contact lists and allow users to organize contacts into groups. Then the phone creates threads of communication with those people integrating Facebook messaging, Windows Messenger, Twitter in one place, without having to fire up separate apps for each way of communicating. The Lumia and other Windows phones will connect to other Microsoft products such as the XBox game console.
Ballmer showed how the phones feature tiles for each friends and family member on its start screen in a way that “puts people first.” On the Apple iPhone, by contrast, the start screen showcases apps such as maps, the Safari browser and a calendar.
But it will be difficult to turn around consumer interest in the top smartphones - the iPhone and Google’s Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy, analysts say.
More than 80 percent of smartphone buyers say they will buy an iPhone or Android device in the next six months. Only 9 percent say they will buy a Windows Mobile phone, according to Katie Lewis, an analyst at Yankee Group.
“Opportunities within the smartphone market abound, but we’ve reached a critical point where graves could be dug” for several software firms, Lewis said.
In his characteristic booming voice, Ballmer said Microsoft hunkered down in the last year to “raise our game” and take “our product line to next level, across homes, the PC and XBox.”
In a growing trend in the tech industry, Microsoft announced new relationships with media and entertainment firms. XBox executives announced a partnership with Comcast’s Xfinity service for on-demand videos. Customers will also be able to access News Corp.’s Wall Street Journal and Fox programs through the game console.