Microsoft Ratchets Up Mobile Offensive

Microsoft unveiled three new Windows Live services in conjunction with the official launch of the latest version of its operating system for smartphones, in an effort to cut deeper inroads into the mobile device market.

Although details of Windows Mobile 6 were leaked to the press last week, the OS upgrade made its official debut at the 3GSM World Congress telecommunications conference in Barcelona on Monday and is expected to ship on mobile devices in United States in April.

Live Search for Windows Mobile 6, Live Search for Java, and Windows Live for Windows Mobile will all be available in the U.S. to customers using Nokia Series 40 and Series 60 devices, the Motorola Razr/Slvr family, and assorted LG and Samsung devices, according to the company.

Handset Manufacturers on Board

The software giant has also answered some critics with the launch, according to Laura DiDio, an analyst with the Yankee Group. The company has received some serious industry support for Windows Mobile 6, with handset manufacturers Toshiba and LG Electronics announcing new plans to offer phones based on the platform.

“They are continuing to extend the reach of Windows and extending their own reach,” DiDio told TechNewsWorld. “It is a very powerful platform that basically puts a computer in the your palm of your hand.”

Microsoft sees the new version of its mobile platform as a natural evolution of the operating system.

“Live Search for mobile and Windows Live for Windows Mobile are the latest examples of our commitment to enhancing the mobile search and services experience for our customers, and helping mobile operators, OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and advertising partners access new revenues and differentiate their products in this competitive mobile market,” said Steve Berkowitz, senior vice president of the online services group at Microsoft.

Platform Features

The big buzz over the announcement of the latest mobile Windows platform is that Microsoft has imported more features from the PC versions of Windows than were available on Windows Mobile 5 — for example, allowing users to read e-mails with Web links and images as they would be read on a PC, according to DiDio.

The platform also includes some capabilities available for the first time in mobile versions of Microsoft Office programs including Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint.

Users can now view and edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets in their original format without affecting tables, images or text.

Mobile Opportunities

Microsoft entered the smartphone industry five years ago with its first version of Windows Mobile and has been upgrading the platform approximately once a year. However, the Redmond giant obviously sees plenty of opportunities to expand its share in the smartphone space.

“It’s a very simple long-term strategy and is another indication Microsoft is working hard to shed its image as just a maker of packaged application software,” said DiDio. “Across the globe, we are getting more and more addicted to mobile connectivity.”

Other OS Challenges

In the past, Microsoft has been criticized for making Windows Mobile available only on a limited range of phones. While Windows is the dominant operating system in the PC market, the software’s mobile version faces significant challenges from products such as the Symbian OS and Research In Motion’s operating system for its BlackBerry devices.

However, Microsoft has made some significant improvements to its mobile operating system. The company said Web pages load 30 to 60 percent faster on Windows Mobile 6 than on Windows Mobile 5, regardless of the network’s bandwidth.

“This shows mobile is a priority,” said DiDio, “and they are in the game to stay.”

The new services also include programs that offer search and mapping capabilities on mobile devices.

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