Digitimes claims that Microsoft plans to ship its Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone OS to handset makers mid-year, which leads to a Q3 2009 public launch of phones actually running the updated system.
They also claim, quite reasonably, that although some manufacturers will have phones out by Q3, most will see Q4 or later releases, seeing as many cellphone operators (Sprint, Verizon) require customization and app development on smartphone platforms. [Digitimes via Into Mobile]
If you really want to taste Windows Mobile 6.5 now, the guys on XDA Developers have a home-cooked ROM for pretty old HTC BlueAngel phones (O2 XDA IIs, Qtek 9090, T-Mobile MDA III) devices that add some, but not all, of the new operating system's features. There's:
* Touch LockScreen
* IE6[IE Mobile8.12Pro]2009 Only for 6.5
* CMHome For WM6.5PRO
* Live For WM6.5
And video of it is above.