Windows Phone 7 Faces Android 2.2, iPhone OS 4

Microsoft’s launch of Windows Phone 7 will bring it into direct opposition with Apple iPhone OS 4, as well as Google Android 2.2 and possibly 2.3

Microsoft plans on releasing Windows Phone 7, touted as a complete revamp of its smartphone operating system, sometime near the end of 2010. Its introduction is an attempt to reverse several quarters of market-share slide in the face of fierce competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google Android phones, and its user interface—concentrated around “hubs” that aggregate mobile application and web content under subject categories such as People and Games—is designed to be a key differentiator from rival offerings.

But a spate of recent announcements and rumors from both the Apple and Google camps has the potential to alter the game considerably.

An iPhone rival?

Rumors have been circulating for days about Apple’s plans for the next-generation iPhone, with Digitimes reporting May 17 that as many as 24 million of the devices could ship in 2010. That number comes courtesy of the publication’s analysts, citing unnamed sources at Taiwan’s component manufacturers.

“Foxconn will ship 4.5 million units in the first half and 19.5 million units for the rest of 2010,” the Digitimes report said. “Apple is expected to unveil the iPhone 4G on June 7, 2010, during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.”

Whether those numbers prove accurate, Apple has typically expected its newest devices to sell well upon their release. Although the company has not officially announced new mobile hardware, leaked prototypes of the device, which the media has dubbed “iPhone 4G,” lend credence to the idea that Apple will follow its pattern of previous years and release a smartphone during the summer.

In addition to a possible new iPhone, Apple plans to introduce the iPhone OS 4, with features such as iAd, a platform for displaying advertisements in mobile applications, and multitasking, which previous versions of the operating system have lacked.

Forthcoming Android Froyo

Meanwhile, phone manufacturer HTC informed the blogosphere that most smartphones launched in 2010 will receive an upgrade to Android 2.2, code-named Froyo, in the second half of the year. HTC phones running Android include the Nexus One, Droid Eris and Droid Incredible.

“As we get closer to readiness, we’ll reveal a full list, but for now have started with the most popular models like Desire and Droid Incredible as well as some of the hotly anticipated new phones,” HTC told the Pocket Lint blog.

In addition to increased speed, Android 2.2 includes enterprise-relevant features such as remote wipe, password options and the ability to easily set up (and sync) a Microsoft Exchange account. For those more inclined to use their smartphones as multimedia devices, Android 2.2 will support Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Systems’ platform for displaying rich Web content such as animations and video.

But even as Android 2.2 emerges from the development labs, rumors abound that Android 2.3, “Gingerbread,” is in the works, and could be released by the fourth quarter of 2010. In all, Android underlies about 60 smartphones today, a number expected to increase by the end of the year.