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Microsofts Windows Mobile 6.0 an Underdog in Crowded Field?

Microsoft Corp. took the wraps off the new functionalities in Windows Mobile 6.0, its operating system for smart mobile devices, and announced the first partners in the initiative.

This marks a moment in time for us as a product organization, said Peter Knook, senior vice president of the mobile and embedded device division at Microsoft. One year ago, England was trounced by Scotland in football. Just recently, England trounced Scotland. And just like that, there are turnarounds in this industry too, of which we are one.

Knook was referring to recent uptake for data-ready devices with the Windows Mobile OS, an underdog in a crowded field that includes BlackBerry and Palm OS. Microsoft, Knook said, has seen 90 percent growth year over year since fiscal year 2005. This release is a culmination of hundreds of hours of usability testing, said John ORourke, general manager of product management at Microsoft. And so, the new Windows Mobile features a simplification of the user interface, including a reduced number of keystrokes to get to often-used functions, native support for full versions of Microsoft Office applications (making for the ability to launch and view full documents), an improved browser and support for its new search and communications management portal service, Windows Live.

The mobile version of Windows Live is perhaps the biggest change in the OS. It gives users the ability to search the Web directly from the mobile home page, and can also consolidate e-mail, instant messaging and other collaborative services. With Live, users can log in, get their mail and have presence functionality, said ORourke. Contacts have pictures and presence status and theres one-click access to IM or calling. Live can support up to five different mailboxes as well and offers a single button stroke to perform common tasks, like message forward or reply. And it has support for HTML mail, meaning different sizes and colors of fonts, and pictures, are supported.

For management, users can perform alpha-numeric searches of call histories, Outlook histories, the SIM card and MS Live mail and can connect back to search the Microsoft Exchange server. It also has extensive calendaring functionality.

The vendor has partnered with a range of device manufacturers and operators to get the OS into the marketplace. T-Mobile USA Inc. will offer existing Windows Mobile device owners the ability to upgrade for free at its Web site, and the T-Mobile Dash will begin shipping with version 6 installed. AT&T (Cingular) and Verizon Wireless have also committed to rollouts in the next few months in the United States.

On the device front, HP, HTC, Motorola Inc., Palm Inc., Samsung and others are developing a range of sleek, exclusive devices around Windows Mobile 6.0, many in collaboration with carrier partners such as Orange in Europe and SoftBank in Japan. The difference between the Apple iPhone and these is that we bring the knowledge of how to partner for success, said Knook. The iPhone is a nice device and an expensive device.

For its part, T-Mobile has seen an 80 percent increase in data device adoption quarter over quarter since the T-Mobile Dash launched in October, said Leslie Grandy, vice president of product and service development. And so, we think Windows Mobile 6.0 will drive consumer adoption now, she added. Its a great opportunity.

AT&T Inc. www.att.com  

Hewlett-Packard Development Co. www.hp.com  

High Tech Computer Corp. www.htc.com  

Microsoft Corp. www.microsoft.com  

Motorola Inc. www.motorola.com  

Palm Inc. www.palm.com  

Samsung www.samsung.com  

T-Mobile USA Inc. www.t-mobile.com  

Verizon Wireless www.verizonwireless.com


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