Microsoft finally got around to giving official word on the stopgap disaster relief measure known as Windows Mobile 6.5, and here it is: Marketplace, My Phone and the new interface are, as expected, happening.
The most exciting part of WinMo 6.5, aside from the new, finger-safe interface, is the Windows Marketplace—a feature which was teased at, but not fully integrated into, the various leaked ROMs that are floating around places like XDA developers. As it turns out, it's pretty much a straightforward app store, like Apple's or Google's, which will be accessible from your handset or your PC with nothing more than your Windows Live ID.
It doesn't sound like store prohibitions will be too strict, either, though the required "simple security and compatibility check" could turn out to be as stringent or lenient as Microsoft desires. Some crucial details are missing though, like whether or not paid apps will be immediately available, if MS will host the store contents, and if there will be any cost associated. Anyway, the app store is happening, and should be open for business when WinMo 6.5 handsets start shipping.
The rest of the news doesn't break so hard: My Phone, as we knew, is part of the release, as are the new interface tweaks. Microsoft's screens show some minor UI differences between the leaked ROMs and the final product, but our impression remain good—the honeycomb app launcher looks usable, the finger-oriented navigation improvements are sensible, and the new menu and widgets have a significant modernizing effect on the whole OS. Microsoft says to expect 6.5-based phones by the "the second half of 2009". Sadly, there's no indication that 6.5 will be available as an upgrade, paid or otherwise, to 6.1 users. Boooo!, etc. Full presser below. [Giz at MWC]
BARCELONA, Spain - Feb. 16, 2009 - Today at Mobile World Congress 2009, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer along with key mobile partners unveiled new Windows® phones featuring new user-friendly software and services. The next generation of Windows® phones will be based on Windows Mobile 6.5 and feature a new user interface and a richer browsing experience. In addition, Windows® phones will feature two new services: My Phone, to sync text messages, photos, video and contacts to the Web; and Windows® Marketplace for Mobile, a new marketplace that will provide direct-to-phone mobile applications that can be controlled from both the phone and the Web.
"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," Ballmer said. "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."
Windows Mobile 6.5 Delivers New User Experience
Windows Mobile 6.5 includes a new home screen with customizable widgets that display glanceable updates from users' favorite Web services and let users tap into them quickly, along with faster, more efficient access to personal e-mail, work e-mail, phone messages and instant messaging. It also includes an improved touch-screen interface, making it easy to take action with a finger, and an updated version of the latest Internet Explorer Mobile browser, which in a third party research study by sponsored by Microsoft, supported execution of up to 48 percent more assigned tasks than the other browsers and phones studied.
My Phone Service Connects the Phone to the Web
The free My Phone service will enable people to access, manage and 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. With automatic syncing and backup, users can count on their contacts, appointments, text messages and other information being kept up to date and easily restored should they lose or upgrade their phone. Consumers also will be able to wirelessly update photos and video from their Windows® phone directly to the My Phone service, making it simple to share content that, in the past, would have lived and died on the phone. The My Phone service is currently available in a limited invitation-only beta.
Rich and Integrated Marketplace Service Will Offer Easy Access to Mobile Applications
The new operating system features Windows® Marketplace for Mobile, a rich and integrated marketplace for searching, browsing and purchasing mobile applications from Windows® phones or from a PC by simply using a Windows Live ID. The new marketplace will ship inside all Windows phones based on Windows Mobile 6.5, which will allow consumers to easily find, install and experience those applications that fit their needs and make the phone truly personal. Developers, who have already built more than 20,000 applications for Windows® phones, will be able to offer applications to customers through the marketplace via a simple security and compatibility check from Microsoft.
The new Windows® phones are expected to be available at the beginning of the second half of 2009. Additional information about Microsoft at Mobile World Congress 2009 is available on the Microsoft MWC Web page at http://www.windowsmobile.com/mobileworldcongress.
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