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Microsoft Debuts Windows Phone 7

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) rejoined the smartphone race early Monday morning when it launched the Windows Phone 7 operating system from a lower Manhattan event space.

With brief appearances from CEO Steve Ballmer and AT&T (T) chief Ralph De La Vega, the highlight of the show was the lineup of nine Windows Phone 7 phones from partners including LG, HTC and Samsung, whose phones will hit the market on Nov. 8.

" These will be a different kind of phone," said Ballmer, opening the event.

Tech watchers hope so. Today's Windows Phone 7 launch is arguably a make-or-break moment for Microsoft as the mobile Internet movement -- which the company hasn't done a great job of embracing -- threatens to diminish its software empire.

Microsoft has struggled with the mobile movement while rivals like Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) have taken the smartphone market by storm. According to research firm NPD Group, in the second quarter, Google's Android topped Research In Motion (RIMM) as the top mobile OS sold in the U.S. Overall, RIM still holds about 35% of the market, with Apple at about 24% and Microsoft lagging with less than 10% at the time of its Windows Phone 7 launch.

According to the TheStreet's live blog of the Phone 7 launch, folks got a peek at the Samsung Focus, the LG Quantum and the HTC Surround, all priced at $200 with a two-year AT&T contract. The Focus, the thinnest of the bunch at 9 millimeters, features a 1-GHZ Snapdragon processor and a 5-megapixel camera.

All of the phones feature lots of cloud connectivity, a hefty dose of Microsoft Office (allowing users the ability to create PowerPoint presentations from their phones, among other things) and a heavy connection to gaming.

"No one will argue Xbox gaming success, but you can't build a mobile business on that," wrote TheStreet's multimedia editor, Bill McCandless.

While the phones appear to be solid entries into the smartphone war, it's too early to tell whether or not these Windows Phone 7 handsets have enough power behind them to overtake the wave of Androids and iPhones.

Stay tuned to TheStreet where we'll have more details and videos on Windows Phone 7 phones later in the day.

Shares of Microsoft were unchanged at $24.57 in late-morning trade.

--Written by Maggie Overfelt in New York.

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