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New Windows Phone operating system coming Monday

Microsoft is ready to unveil the next version of its mobile operating system on Monday. At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, CEO Steve Ballmer will take the stage to show off the next version of Windows Mobile.

Except this time, the OS will most likely have a new name – something along the lines of “Windows Phone 7.”

The rumored rebranding is no surprise – Microsoft has faced harsh criticism this past year as Windows Mobile lost popularity to Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android OS and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry line, which continued to win over consumers. But there may be more to the rebranding than simply getting away from the “Windows Mobile” name – the next mobile operating system could be completely different.

Reports on Friday suggested Windows Phone 7 – or whatever it’ll be called – will look a lot like the user interface of Microsoft’s Zune HD media player.

A new look may be key in the success of Windows Phone 7. In many ways, the OS being revealed Monday is Microsoft’s last hope in the smartphone market.

Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft’s last big refresh, was released way back in 2007 and Windows Mobile 6.1 came in 2008. Windows Mobile 6.5, largely seen as a holdover until Monday’s announcement, was released in October 2009 to horrible reviews.

Meanwhile, Microsoft lost significant market share in 2009. Though comScore said Windows Mobile was on 18 percent of smartphones by the end of the year, Gartner said not even 8 percent of new smartphones sold during the third quarter were running Microsoft’s OS.

It’s time for something new.

Microsoft’s news conference kicks off at 6 a.m. Pacific on Monday. Tune into The Microsoft Blog then and in the following hours for all the information you can handle.

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Whats new in Windows Mobile 6.5 ?

windowsphone Windows Mobile 6.5 has made significant enhancements to business productivity, consumer messaging, andmobile Internet. It focuses on key areas to help partners target professionals and also target new consumer messaging positions for Windows phones. more…

Microsoft opens Windows Marketplace for Mobile with 246 apps

window phone

Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft’s equivalen to the Apple’s iPhone App Store, opened for business officially on October 6 with 246 applications.

Yes, that is nowhere near the more than 85,000 apps in the App Store. But Microsoft officials claimed not to be discouraged by the disparity. At Microsoft’s consumer-focused open-house showcase in New York City today, company officials noted that the company has 753 independent software vendors working on Windows Mobile ports.

Robbie Bach, the President of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Unit, told press and analysts that he was upbeat about Microsoft’s progress.

“Apple had less than 100 applications when it first launched its marketplace,” Bach said. (I did a quick search and found a story claiming that number was actually closer to 500, when Apple launched its store in 2008.)

Bach also claimed it was “kind of goofy” to focus on the absolute numbers of applications in Microsoft’s Windows Mobile store, since the real measure of success is how many of those applications get used.

Bach told press and analysts who attended a private roundtable that there are more than 20,000 applications available for Windows Mobile 6 and 6.1 phones — and even if the applications focused on specific business verticals and IT tasks are subtracted, there are still “tens of thousands” of Windows Mobile apps out there.

The newly launched Windows Marketplace for Mobile currently only works with Windows Mobile 6.5 phones, which launched today. Microsoft officials have said that the Marketplace will also be accessible to Windows Mobile 6 and 6.1 phones before the end of the year. But that doesn’t mean the current crop of Windows Mobile 6 and 6.1 apps get an automatic berth in the Windows Marketplace; they still need to go through the certification and evaluation process.

Windows Live services – other than instant messaging — aren’t are going to be available via the Marketplace. Windows Live Hotmail will be included with all Windows Mobile phones, but the some other Windows Live services will be available preloaded on select phones, since “operators are trying to monetize this space separately,” as Aaron Woodman, Director of Product Management for Windows Mobile told me today. (Note: Corrected my misunderstandings here.)

Microsoft also officially “turned on” the commercial version of its My Phone premium service for Windows Mobile users on October 6. (My Phone is the service formerly codenamed Skybox.) The final version of the service includes several new capabilities that were not part of the beta service. These are:

  • Social networking integration: Direct access to Facebook and other social-networking services is available from the My Phone cloud.
  • Windows Mobile phones set to vibrate are able to be made to ring (at a high volume) via My Phone to help users locate lost phones.
  • Windows Mobile phones may be locked and set to post a message via My Phone. (Example: “MJF’s phone. $50 bucks for its return. Call xxx.”)
  • Windows Mobile phones may be located  on a GPS map via the service (in case they are stolen or lost)
  • Windows Mobile phones may be wiped of data and reprogrammed remotely via My Phone.

Windows Mobile 6.0, 6.1 or 6.5 users can access these services, which Microsoft considers to be a “premium pack” for free until Nov. 30, 2009. After that date, seven-day access to the premium package will be available for purchase for $4.99.