Microsoft has announced the launch of the first handsets running on Windows Mobile 6.5, which it has rebranded as Windows Phone.
The company yesterday showed off the first phones to use the new platform - the Samsung Intrepid and HTC's pure, Imagio and Tilt 2 – at a New York press event. The handsets will all be available in the US within weeks, with a European launch to follow.
More than 30 Windows Phones will be available in 20 countries by the end of the year, the company added.
The reception from the influential blogsites was unforgiving, however.
“Windows Mobile 6.5 isn't just a letdown—it barely seems done,” said Gizmodo. “It's a superficial update, and not a very thorough one. It's an interim product, and a vain attempt to hold onto the thinning ranks people who still choose Windows Mobile.
Said Engadget: “Windows Mobile is in dire need of a ground-up revamp, and it's happening – but not quite yet. That's Windows Mobile 7 you're looking for, and realistically, it's not going to be in your pocket for at least another year.”
Essentially the new OS is an upgrade of Version 6.1 – “which is already a facelift of 6, which in turn was a facelift of 5” – with the aim of eking “another year or two of life out of it.”
GigaOm said Windows Mobile could look forward to a role as a niche player for business users. “[B]ut when it comes to the mass market, the window for Windows Mobile has closed.”
While research firm iSuppli predicts that Microsoft will reclaim second spot in the smartphone market by 2013, the company held just 9% market share in Q2, down from 12% a year ago, Gartner said.
One of Microsoft’s UK retail partners, Phones4U, said it would sell the new devices on its website rather than in its store.
Microsoft yesterday also unveiled its Windows Marketplace for Mobile app store, which will be available exclusively on the new platform. The company said 750 software developers worldwide were designing apps for the store.
It also launched a free synching and backup service called MyPhone, which aims to help customers restore their data in the event their phones are lost or stolen, has also been launched. The premium version allows users to identify stolen phones on a map, remotely lock the phone or wipe data.