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October 6, 2009

Microsoft and partners launch Windows Mobile 6.5 phones

Posted by David Hunter at 10:44 AM ET.

Microsoft and its mobile phone partners today launched Windows Mobile 6.5 phones under the new brand, Windows phones:

Microsoft today unveiled a new generation of phones from leading manufacturers and mobile operators that offer an intuitive user interface, powerful Web browsing, and access to an online library of downloadable services and applications. Windows phones — a new brand for phones running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system — are now available in retail stores worldwide in a broad range of styles and prices.

The new phones were shown at press events in New York, hosted by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment & Devices Division, and in Paris, where Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer showed off the new Windows phones. They also announced the availability of two key services platforms for the new phones: My Phone and Windows Marketplace for Mobile. My Phone is a free service that helps people back up and manage photos, applications and other content from their phone or PC, as well as restore information in the event of a lost phone. Windows Marketplace for Mobile is an online library of business and leisure mobile applications — as well as games — that customers can buy and download directly to their phones.

The partners announcing Windows phones are listed here as well as a laundry list of what is new in Windows Mobile 6.5, but not unexpectedly it is an incremental release with a new user interface crafted on top of the same old Windows Mobile 6.1 which has lead to some predictable complaints:

Judging from the first wave of 6.5 handsets, the change OS will barely be noticeable to most folks. Alternative interfaces like TouchFLO and TouchWiz will remain, and won’t outwardly change, nor will included apps—they’re all compatible. Customers will buy Windows Mobile phones based on the quality of their 3rd party interfaces; carriers will continue to carry them because certain people, chained by their employers or a specific piece of software, will need them; and app makers will be slow to take to the Marketplace, since hey, how much longer do these Windows CE 5-based OSes even have left? It’ll be a sad, long slog until April (or god forbid, December) when Windows Mobile 7, whatever it is, finally hits phones.

To net it out, Windows Mobile 6.5, the first incarnation of Windows phone, is merely a placeholder until Windows Mobile 7 can be delivered as Steve Ballmer has publicly admitted. Meanwhile, longtime Microsoft partner Verizon has announced a "strategic partnership" with Google and a plan to launch some Android-based phones.

Filed under Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft, Windows Mobile, Windows Mobile 6.5, Windows Phone 7

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