Windows Phone 7 to "democritise" the smartphone; TV integration coming?

Windows Phone 7 feels like its been a long time coming, and today Steve Ballmer took to the stage complete with some carrier partners to discuss the upcoming smartphone platform. Contrary to previous events, no hardware partners were on stage today – though HTC, LG, Toshiba and other OEMs were all named as developing Windows Phone 7 hardware – but AT&T and Orange were both named as key carrier partners.

Both have a long history of working with Microsoft on smartphones – Orange launching the first model in 2002, and AT&T theirs a year later – though their exact role as "valued partners" wasn't made particularly clear. Still, it seems one particular push will be for entry-level pricing; Olaf Swantee, SVP of Personal Business for Orange, described Windows Phone 7 as an opportunity to promote mobile data access to a segment that so-far has proved relatively uninterested. According to Swantee, "only 25-percent of our customers today properly access the mobile internet ... with Windows Phone 7 we can democratise the smartphone".

There are also hints of future strategy, though you have to read a little between the lines. AT&T's representative on-stage, David Christopher, is not only responsible for choosing handsets for the carrier but for the AT&T U-Verse Digital TV service; later, Ballmer described the cellphone as one of the "three screens and a cloud", and emphasised that "exciting things are happening in the TV sphere" including the potential for integration with mobile devices. With Zune, Xbox, Bing, IE, Office and more onboard with Windows Phone 7, it wouldn't be too great a stretch to include Windows Media Center functionality in that list too.

Looking for hands-on details of Windows Phone 7?  Check out our first-impressions post.Windows Phone 7 UI demo:

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Windows Phone 7 UI demo 2:

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Windows Phone 7 ASUS prototype hands-on: