Microsoft Putting More Weight on Its Mobility Presence

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Tapping into smartphone’s growing momentum, Microsoft unveils aggressive plans for Windows Phone, OEM partnerships and app development.

Microsoft is hoping to further cement its presence in the mobility space with a next-generation OS and a passel of services designed to streamline the way we receive messages, from PCs to mobile device.

The next iteration of Windows Mobile, which Microsoft is now calling simply Windows Phone, was unveiled at the GSMA World Mobile Congress in Barcelona, along with My Phone, which enables users to sync content on their mobile device to the Web; and Windows Marketplace for Mobile, an online applications marketplace accessible from both the mobile device and the Internet.

“Windows phones bring together the best of the Web, the PC and the phone so you can connect instantly to the experiences you care about, no matter where you are,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during the press conference announcing the technologies. “We’re working with partners across the industry to deliver a new generation of Windows phones that break down the barriers between people, information and applications and provide great end-to-end experiences that span your entire life, at work and at home.”

The new Windows Phone features a “dashboard-like experience,” according to Microsoft, providing easy access to information on new e-mails, texts, missed calls and calendar appointments. The OS also features an updated version of Internet Explorer. Microsoft also has improved the touch-screen interface.

The free My Phone service will enable users to access, manage and automatically back up their personal information on their device to a password-protected Web-based service, making it easier to upgrade phones without the worry of losing important information, according to the company. Microsoft would not give a release date on My Phone, which currently is in beta testing.

Available with the latest Windows Phone, however, is Windows Marketplace for Mobile. So far 20,000 developers have created applications for Windows Mobile, all of which will be available on the site. All Windows Phone-enabled mobile devices will come with the marketplace software installed.

So far, three mobile device manufacturers – HTC, LG and Orange – have signed up to include Windows Phone, which is expected to be available in the second half of the year.

Microsoft is the fourth mobility-related company to announce an online applications marketplace. Apple and Google previously had online stores in place, and Nokia announced on Monday its Ovi Store. Research in Motion is expected to announce a store for its BlackBerry line of phones.