Microsoft unveiled the latest version of its mobile phone operating system at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The software company expects the first phones with Windows Phone 7 Series to be on the market in time for Christmas this year. The new OS sees Microsoft trying to tie its other services more closely to Windows handsets. Each new handset with Windows Phone 7 will feature a button connecting to the Microsoft search engine Bing and a customised Bing search application.

The company also introduced Windows Phone hubs, which will bring together related content from the web, applications and services into a single view to simplify common tasks. Windows Phone 7 includes six hubs built on specific themes. Thse are: people, integrating live feeds from social networks and photos and a central place to post updates to Facebook and Windows Live; pictures, for sharing pictures and video to a social network and accessing photos and videos on a PC; games, including the first Xbox Live platform on a phone, with games, a Spotlight feed and the ability to see a gamer’s avatar, achievements and gamer profile; music + video, bringing together items form Microsoft’s Zune platform, a user’s PC, online music services and a FM radio; marketplace, for finding applications and games; and office for access software such as Microsoft Office, OneNote, SharePoint Workspace and Outlook Mobile. Among the first partners committed to using Windows Phone 7 are AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm.