BARCELONA—Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today outlined the company’s Windows mobile vision to an audience of about 300, plus a crowd that listened and watched in an overflow area on TV monitors.
The occasion? To name just a few, Microsoft officially announced Windows Mobile 6.5, a Windows Marketplace store for selling applications and a desire to get Windows on more phones.
The computer software giant, which has been intimately involved in the wireless business much longer than Apple and Google, is garnering more attention now as it puts more punch into its strategy. Myriad reports leading up to MWC discussed Microsoft’s My Phone sync product and even the possibility – which Microsoft denied – that the company would build its own smartphone.
Ballmer pointed to Microsoft’s strong history in the Windows Mobile ecosystem, including 500,000 software development companies and millions of units sold. “But the time has come to do more,” he said.
Windows phones need to come in different shapes and sizes to fit each individual owner, and Microsoft has to make sure, with its partners, that there is a Windows phone that meets each individual’s needs, including in the areas of productivity and social interaction, he said.
In an earlier interview, Tim McDonough, senior director for consumer experiences at Microsoft, explained the company is investing in three areas: helping people stay closer to what matters to them; empowering people to act; and letting consumers choose the devices and applications that uniquely apply to them.
In the area of staying closer, “we’ve done a lot of work to make Windows Mobile better looking and more useful at the same time,” he said. For example, end-users are able to customize their home screen with most-used apps.
The user interface (UI) overall is refreshed in version 6.5, which includes Live Messenger and HotMail. In another example of taking a popular desktop feature onto mobile, a high-performance browser allows for zoom, pan and double taps.
Microsoft confirmed it will offer an apps store, called Windows Marketplace, where end-users can get applications, which can be downloaded to a phone or a PC. No details were given as to when the marketplace will open for business.
Regarding personal choice, the strategy is to get Windows 6.5 on phones that are high end as well as less expensive. McDonough would not comment on the timing of Windows Mobile 7, which some expect to arrive next year. Given that version 7 could be coming next year, how many handset manufacturers might wait? McDonough couldn’t comment on that but said the company is seeing an enthusiastic response to 6.5; some handsets already are in the pipeline for 6.5 updates.
The latest version of Windows Mobile is shipping with Flash Lite, but there’s no word on when or if Microsoft will debut its Silverlight on mobile.
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