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Microsoft: Windows Phone 7 still work in progress

Designers of Windows Phone 7 tried to focus on getting the basics right with the first release of the product: better functionality will come later, an executive says.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore discusses Windows Phone 7 development priorities at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference.
Microsoft's Joe Belfiore discusses Windows Phone 7 development priorities at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference.
Tom Krazit/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO--A key Microsoft executive working on the company's Windows Phone 7 project dodged many a question about the future of the software but sketched out a basic idea of who Microsoft wants to target with its revamped phones.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president for Windows Phone program management and design, told All Things D's Walt Mossberg at the D: Dive Into Mobile conference today that Microsoft is trying to steer a middle ground between high-end consumers obsessed with the iPhone and geekier types who have gravitated to Google's Android software. Windows Phone 7 devices have been out for about a month, and while Belfiore wasn't willing to share any sales numbers, he suggested that people are responding to Microsoft's ad campaigns and ease-of-use pitch.

Microsoft's mobile market share has plunged over the last four years, as the iPhone and Android phones emerged and Research in Motion's BlackBerrys continued to stay popular. Belfiore acknowledged that Microsoft was behind but said with the launch that the company now has a product "that's right there with those guys."

Mossberg, however, pointed out that Windows Phone 7 lacks some features common to other mobile OSes, such as copy-paste and multitasking. Recent rumors of the imminent arrival copy-paste were not definitively confirmed by Belfiore but he did say he was testing the feature on his phone, and that people should expect it to arrival in early 2011.

Microsoft focused on getting the basic things right in its first release, Belfiore said, such as calls, calendars, text messages, and navigation.

Mossberg asked Belfiore to confirm last night's assertion by Google's Andy Rubin that Microsoft had an "old code" problem, and while Belfiore did acknowledge that the kernel of Windows Phone 7 is based on the older Windows Mobile software, he said the company used "mostly new" code through the software and that old software isn't necessarily bad if it's been tested and debugged.

One area where Belfiore dropped any pretense of trying to give a straight answer was when he was asked about Microsoft's tablet strategy. Mossberg noted it was "ironic" that Microsoft, which pioneered the tablet concept, has been mostly sitting on the sidelines as others define the tablet experience.

The main question is whether Microsoft wants to promote Windows 7 or Windows Phone 7 as the operating system for future tablets, and Belfiore punted. Microsoft has historically tried to extend the PC-based Windows as far as possible across different form factors, and that's still the strategy until its not the strategy, he essentially said.