Put Up Or Shut Up Time For Microsoft In Mobile

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But given Microsoft's lagging position, anything short of a major overhaul to the status quo will likely be perceived as inadequate. According to the latest figures from Comscore, Windows Mobile's smartphone market share slipped from 19 percent in September to 18 percent in December. Meanwhile, RIM had 41.6 percent in December and Apple had 25.3 percent.

At this point, the rumors flying around Microsoft's mobile plans have become too numerous to count. There's been recent scuttlebutt that Pink, the top secret smartphone project that reportedly includes technology from Microsoft's 2008 acquisition of Danger, could finally emerge from the shadows at MWC. Other rumors have centered on the forthcoming release of a "Zune Phone".

There has also been speculation that Microsoft will unveil Windows Mobile 6.6, code-named Maldives, as a sort of stopgap along the road to Windows Mobile 7. Microsoft has maintained a steadfast silence on all these rumors, but has been dropping hints recently about what's on tap next week at MWC and at MIX10, which will be held from March 15-17.

In an interview with Fox News earlier this month, newly appointed Microsoft CFO Peter Klein was asked if Microsoft plans to launch Windows Mobile 7 this year. "We're heads down working on Windows Mobile 7 and we'll have much more to say about that at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February," Klein responded.

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"Yes, at MIX10 you'll learn about developing applications and games for the next generation of Windows Phone. Yes, we'll have Phone sessions, and we can't say more yet," Microsoft said last month in a cryptic post to its MIX10 blog.

Adding further intrigue is a description for one of the sessions at Microsoft's Energize IT event, to be held March 30 in Ottawa, Ontario. As first noted by the blog Microsoft Kitchen, Microsoft originally included the term "Windows Phone 7" in the session description, but later changed it to "Windows Mobile."

For Microsoft partners who've been hoping for Silverlight to play a greater role in the software giant's mobile strategy, the Energize IT event description holds some delicious clues.

"You'll see how to build next generation applications with technology like Silverlight, .NET 4.0 and Visual Studio 2010. You will find out how to consume those applications on a variety of devices, like mobile devices running Windows Mobile, netbooks and PCs running Windows 7, as well as the web," reads the description.

Last month, several sources told Channelweb.com they expect Microsoft to make Silverlight 4 the platform for building native applications in Windows Mobile 7 and future generations of Windows Phones. By the time Energize IT rolls around, it's likely that Microsoft will have already made this information public.

Microsoft partners see this as an important first step toward getting Windows Mobile back on track. Since Siliverlight is based on .Net, developers would be able to reuse the code they create for desktop applications to build applications for mobile devices and the Web.

Whether this is just another Windows Mobile rumor remains to be seen, but given Microsoft's desire to show that Silverlight is ready for prime time, it's a move that would make a lot of sense.