Once again, Microsoft is throwing some flattery Apple’s way by following its lead. Earlier today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft announced the latest version of its mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5. The new OS takes cues directly from the iPhone. It has “an improved touch-screen interface, making it easy to take action with a finger” (so advanced) and a dashboard-like interface with different application icons in honeycomb cells (screen shots).
One of those icons will launch a Windows Marketplace with 20,000 mobile apps, similar to how the iTunes App Store can be accessed directly from the iPhone. And the phones will come with a new My Phone service, formerly codenamed Skybox, which sync contacts, emails, text messages, calendar, and pictures. Apple has a similar syncing service for the iPhone called MobileMe. The new mobile OS will appear in phones in the second half of 2009.
The upgraded Windows Mobile is not a complete imitation, however. It probably takes more cues from the Zune than from the iPhone. There is also a status update/feed view which highlights new messages, voicemails, and calendar appointments. The updated mobile version of Internet Explorer which will be included in the OS will at least support Flash (something the iPhone stubbornly refuses to embrace).
And the My Phone service, while it appears the same as MobileMe on the surface, is but the first step in Microsoft’s roll-out of its Live Mesh initiative. As more Live Mesh services become available, they should automatically be added to WinMo phones. If anything, that is where these phones will distinguish themselves from the iPhone down the line. Update: I was wrong about this. The My Phone service is based on technology from Mobicomp, a company Microsoft acquired last June. It has nothing to do with Live Mesh. But syncing with data on mobile phones is in Live Mesh’s roadmap, so hopefully these two technologies will eventually merge.