Windows Mobile targets consumers

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer yesterday unveiled what looks to be a two-pronged strategy for Windows Mobile - to offer end-to-end experiences and to target emerging markets.

In a day of news announcements from Barcelona, it won a commitment from LG to put Windows Mobile on at least 50 smartphones and released plans to offer Windows Live services through major emerging market operators and on SIM cards.

Ballmer said the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 OS is the first generation of what the company is now simply calling Windows phones. The new OS, which will be available later this year, features a new user interface and a richer browsing experience.

He said Microsoft's vision is to deliver one platform across the PC, the mobile phone, the web and the TV.

"Despite our successes, it's time to take our Windows Mobile business to the next level by bringing the full Windows experience to the mobile phone," he said. "The Windows phone has to be more than just a device. It's no longer about how the phone works by itself, but how it works with the PC and internet.

"We believe Windows Mobile 6.5 takes mobile phones to another level by sticking together the PC, the phone and the web and bringing those closer into a more seamless and simple user experience and breaking down barriers between devices and applications."

He noted that the downturn represents more of a fundamental economic reset then a recession, and that no industry, including the computer and mobile industries, is immune to this reset. 

"But no matter what happens with the economic situation, none of that will slow the pace of technological process. In fact, the need for innovation that our industry brings is even more important. As people struggle to make every dollar count, they will expect the mobile industry to deliver devices and services that offer greater value."

Ballmer said that Windows phones will feature the My Phone service to backup data to the web and Windows Marketplace that will provide direct-to-phone mobile applications and can be accessed from both the phone and the web.

Korean handset-maker LG said it would make Windows its primary operating system for smartphones and would increase the number of Windows phones in its portfolio. It expects to increase by tenfold the volume of Windows phones available from LG in 2009 and bring up to 26 new Windows phones to market in 2012.

Separately, Microsoft said it had reached agreements with Orascom Telecom, América Móvil, Telefonica and Personal to offer Windows Live mail and instant messenging services through their affiliates in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

It said it would work with Gemalto to Windows Live via an embedded SIM card applications to users in other developing markets.

HP said it would support Windows Mobile 6.5 on future smartphone devices.