Microsoft to launch Windows Phone 7

Microsoft is set to unveil a new line of phones running its Windows software on Monday, as it attempts to pull back market share from Apple's iPhone and Google's Android system in the fast-growing market for multi-featured 'smartphones'.

The new phones, initially available on America’s AT&T's network, have already been shown off in prototype form, and are much closer in look and feel to Apple's iPhone, with colourful touchscreens and 'tiles' for easy access to email, the Web, music and other applications.

Some analysts say they represent Microsoft's last chance to catch up with rivals, which overtook them in the past few years. Handsets are not expected to appear in stores for a month, so their success may not be judged until the new year.

Microsoft has just a 5 per cent share of the global smartphone market, according to research firm Gartner, compared with 9 per cent a year ago. Google's Android system has a 17 per cent market share, jumping from only 2 per cent a year ago.

The market for multi-feature phones that allow users to email, surf the Web and play games, as well as have access to music and video, is set to expand massively.

Gartner expects almost 270 million smartphones to be sold around the world this year, up 56 per cent from last year.

In comparison, Gartner expects only a 19 per cent increase in worldwide PC sales to 368 million units this year.

Earlier this year, Microsoft yanked its Kin phone aimed at teenagers off the market less than three months after launch. There are still no signs of an imminent Windows-powered tablet device to counter Apple's hot-selling iPad.

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