What It Is: Microsoft’s answer to the iPhone: The new Windows Phone 7 operating system, soon available for all carriers on smart phones such as the HTC Surround (from $199; htc.com). The platform has a stripped-down interface, an innovative main screen with window-like tiles that click through to your favorite resources and apps. It also has easy access to entertainment through Xbox Live (games), Zune (music and video), and Netflix (movies).
Why It Matters: Although Windows Phone 7 is still far from perfect (dedicated apps are required to play most kinds of Web video), it’s arguably the easiest and least cluttered mobile platform, and is surprisingly stable. Key features that were missing at launch—the ability to cut and paste text—are being addressed. For anyone who finds the iPhone and Android interfaces confusing, this sleek system could be the answer.