New Windows Mobile Phones: Will Anyone Come Calling?


Microsoft confirmed Tuesday that a number of phones running its new Windows Mobile 6.5 will debut Oct. 6.

The mix of phones in North America -- both new phones and existing phones updated for Windows Mobile 6.5 -- includes units by Hewlett-Packard, HTC, LG, Samsung and Toshiba and mobile operators AT&T, Bell Mobility, Sprint, TELUS and Verizon Wireless. Microsoft also confirmed Windows Mobile 6.5 partners in Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.

The question now for Microsoft: Will anyone come calling?

Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform has lost substantial market share in the past year, with market analysts such as Canalys putting the number of phones shipped with Windows Mobile at 9 percent of overall global smartphone shipments. By comparison, Windows Mobile phones held a 14.3 percent share for the same period a year ago, and this year's share is a fifth of the 45 percent Canalys awards market leader Nokia, and lower than Research In Motion's 20.9 percent for BlackBerry and Apple's 13.7 percent for iPhone.

As its press release reads, Microsoft has attempted to position Windows Mobile phones as "ideal devices for work and play" using, among other features, a redesigned Internet Explorer Mobile browser with Adobe Flash Lite support.

Windows Mobile 6.5 will also be the first Windows Mobile edition to enable access to Windows Marketplace, although Microsoft didn't confirm how many apps will be available for download.

Microsoft's enthusiasm hasn't done much to sway analysts. Jack Gold of J. Gold Associates -- one of Windows Mobile's most vocal critics -- has maintained that Microsoft should divest itself of mobile OSes altogether and find other ways to make money from the exploding smartphone market, recently saying that he expects Microsoft to exit the mobile OS market "within the next two years."

"Over the past two years, Microsoft's grasp on the market for mobile-phone operating systems has been slipping because it hasn't kept pace with the rate of developments in the smartphone market, such as touch screens and a wide variety of compelling applications," Gold wrote in an article for BusinessWeek last month.

Gold was among those analysts who championed Microsoft's recent alliance with Nokia to bring Microsoft Office and other Microsoft applications to Nokia's Symbian smartphones.

The partnership doesn't mean Nokia and Microsoft won't continue to be competitive in the smartphone market as well. But a number of observers suggested at the time that the move is a tacit acknowledgment from Microsoft that Windows Mobile alone won't boost its smartphone presence.

Give us some thoughts, readers: How does Windows Mobile 6.5 stand to help Microsoft gain smartphone share, especially with the market more competitive every day?