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Windows Phone 7 won't support tethering

Despite earlier comments suggesting it would be up to carriers whether to allow the phone to act as a modem, Microsoft now says the operating system won't support that feature.

Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Phone 7 won't act as a hot spot, after all.

A Microsoft official recently suggested that it would be up to cellular carriers whether to allow so-called "tethering," but Microsoft confirmed to CNET on Friday that Windows Phone 7 doesn't support the feature at all. Microsoft won't say if future versions might allow for tethering.

Despite some comments to the contrary, Windows Phone 7 won't support tethering when it goes on sale next month.
Despite some comments to the contrary, Windows Phone 7 won't support tethering when it goes on sale next month. Bonnie Cha/CNET

It's another technical limitation for Microsoft's re-entry into the phone market, adding to a list of features supported on other platforms including full multitasking and copy/paste functionality. And, as CNET reported last week, the phones will not be available until next year for CDMA carriers such as Sprint and Verizon.

Obviously, fewer carriers is a blow, but it remains to be seen how large the impact will be from the other missing technical features. Tethering one's phone to allow computers Internet access is a powerful, but niche use for the phone. Android and Palm support it. The iPhone has supported tethering for some time, though AT&T only recently added the capability for U.S. iPhone owners. AT&T added tethering as a $20-a-month option in June, at the same time it eliminated the unlimited data option.

As for its other limitations, copy and paste are features I use all the time--and ones that Apple was lambasted for not having in its early days. Windows Phone allows for limited multitasking, such as playing music and running an application or using the calendar while talking on the phone, but the operating system doesn't allow the full multitasking found on other smartphones.

There is no doubt that those looking for the most technically powerful device will have reason to pause before picking Windows Phone 7. However--and this is the unusual thing for Microsoft--the early adopter isn't really the target customer for Windows Phone 7. The company appears to be aiming for the masses and may have hit its mark, even if it left some useful features on the chopping block.

Having used the phone as my everyday device for the last couple of months, it has proven elegant and reliable, if lacking in the aforementioned technical areas. I'm very curious to see what mainstream consumers make of the phones when they hit the market.

And we won't have to wait much longer. After years of development, Microsoft wrapped up development of Windows Phone 7 at the beginning of the month and plans to tout it at an October 11 event in New York. Devices are set to go on sale, at least in Europe, later that month, with U.S. availability likely by early November.