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Sprint on Thursday officially began taking pre-orders for the HTC Arrive, its first phone built on Microsoft's relatively new Windows Phone 7 operating system.
The phone, which runs Qualcomm's 1GHz Snapdragon processor, features a slide-out keyboard and a display that tilts upward for easier viewing. It also comes standard with a 5MP camera and 720p HD camcorder and checks in at 6.5 ounces.
Like all Windows Phone 7 devices, the Arrive also features Microsoft's Live Tiles interface, which pushes real-time updates from e-mails, social networks, and other communications tools to the forefront of the home screen. It also boasts direct integration with Microsoft products such as Office, Zune, and Xbox Live.
MS Office integration, in particular, could be enough to entice business users to kick the tires on the Arrive.
Sprint is taking pre-orders at $199 per unit, based on a two-year contract, and is promising to ship the phones on March 20. Other carriers, including AT&T with its Samsung Focus and LG Quantum, and T-Mobile with the HTC HD7, have already dropped the price of their 2-year-plan Windows Phone 7 smartphones to $99 since introducing the products late last year.
Some observers feel it's a sign that Windows Phone 7 is losing momentum in the market after the early buzz that followed its debut. Microsoft has divulged few details about Windows Phone 7's sales performance to date.
Sprint's HTC offering will also have to compete, eventually, with Windows Phone 7 devices from Nokia.
Microsoft announced an agreement last week under which the Finnish phone maker will use Windows Phone 7 as the default OS for smartphones to be sold in the U.S. and worldwide. Microsoft is hoping the pact will give Windows Phone 7 a fighting chance against Android and iOS-based devices from rivals Google and Apple.
Microsoft shares were up .68%, to $26.77, in afternoon trading Thursday.