Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) is expected to make a number of announcements today at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Here’s a round-up of what the company will likely unveil at its afternoon press conference. For some additional perspective on the news, take a look at our interview with Andy Lees, Microsoft’s SVP of mobile communications business in the next post.
Microsoft’s four major announcements today:
— Windows Mobile 6.5: Going forward, the name will actually be truncated, so it will be coined a “Windows Phone,” running 6.5, rather than Windows Mobile 6.5. The new version updates the UI, so that it’s easier to navigate with a thumb, rather than a stylus. The biggest change is when the Start menu drops down, it reveals all of the applications in a graphical honeycomb format. Before it was a list of names, which was difficult to individually tap on. Another big change is that from the locked position, you can easily see how many voicemails, text messages and emails you have waiting for you and access them with one click. The software will be available to consumers in the second-half of 2009.
— Windows Marketplace for Mobile: This is likely the first of many application stores that will be announced at the show. The official name is Windows Marketplace for Mobile, rather than the codename SkyMarket. There’s not many details out yet on how this will work. It will only be available on 6.5 devices, so don’t expect it until the second half of this year. Also, there’s no indication how Microsoft will split the revenues between itself and the carrier and the developer. However, it’s promising to be robust from its initial launch since Windows Mobile already has around 20,000 applications available today. Users will be able to purchase applications by logging into their Windows Live account.
— MyPhone: MyPhone is a back-up service that let’s people automatically save contacts, text messages, videos and photos from the device to a Web site. It’s not a syncing service, so you can’t upload your contacts from your computer to the cloud, and back down to the phone. It’s more of an emergency service, so you won’t lose everything if you misplace your phone, or want to upgrade to a new phone more quickly. This is the same service Microsoft confirmed about a week ago when a Web site for it went up early. The free service will go into private beta today.
— Enhanced partnership with LG: Microsoft said it will also be working closer with LG (SEO: 066570), a company it had agreed to a partnership with in advance. LG is committing to developing 50 new Windows Mobile phones by the end of 2012 and both companies — Microsoft and LG — are committing to increasing their investment in Windows Mobile by five-fold.