In an effort to show wide support for its newest Windows Mobile operating system, Microsoft is highlighting several announcements from handset makers on Monday at 3GSM in Barcelona.
Device manufacturers including Toshiba and LG Electronics are announcing plans to offer phones based on the new Windows Mobile 6.0. Other device makers committed to supporting Windows Mobile 6.0 include High Tech Computer, iMate, Motorola, Palm and Samsung Electronics, Microsoft said.
Some operators are also allowing customers to upgrade from the previous Windows Mobile software. T-Mobile USA, for example, plans to announce on Monday that it will offer an upgrade to the new operating system to customers who are using the HTC device running Windows Mobile 5.0. Users will be able to download the new operating system for free from T-Mobile's Web site starting in the second quarter, said Leslie Grandy, vice president of product and service development for T-Mobile USA.
Most of the phones running Windows Mobile 6.0 will become available in March or April.
Analysts and competitors have criticized the Windows Mobile platform for being available on a smaller range of phones than other operating systems, specifically Nokia's Symbian S60. But Microsoft argues that it is offering the best choice to users.
"We are now promoting 140 different form factors from 48 device makers," said Marianne Roling, director of mobile embedded devices for Europe, Middle East and Africa for Microsoft. "We're seeing lots of traction."
Microsoft also brushed off impending competition with the iPhone, a new combined music player and phone to be introduced by Apple Inc. later this year. "It's a nice product. It's an expensive product," said Pieter Knook, senior vice president of Microsoft's mobile embedded device group, during a press conference at 3GSM. "We're focused on a different model than Apple. We know how to partner with device makers and operators and bring technology to market."
British Telecommunications (BT) said Monday that it is taking advantage of Windows Mobile 6.0's built-in VOIP (voice over Internet Protocol) capabilities by selling a Hewlett-Packard (HP) device running the software to customers of its converged Fusion service.
The HP iPaq 514 running Windows Mobile 6.0 will be offered to business users of the service, which lets customers make low-cost VOIP-over-Wi-Fi calls as well as standard mobile calls. Users can roam between the two networks without dropping calls.
Windows Mobile 6.0 includes support for wireless VOIP but users need to subscribe to a service like BT's Fusion in order to seamlessly move between the networks, Roling said.
In addition to BT, other operators that have expressed plans to introduce phones running Windows Mobile 6.0 include France Telecom's Orange, Softbank, AT&T, Singapore Telecommunications and Telefonica, Microsoft said.
Microsoft also plans to announce on Monday that The Carphone Warehouse Group will offer a hosted mobile e-mail service to small and medium-size businesses based on a hosted server product from Microsoft. End users, who may use Windows Mobile 6.0 phones, will pay a monthly fee for the service.