updated 10:00 am EDT, Tue September 1, 2009
Win Mobile 6.5 Ships Oct 6
Microsoft today committed to a ship date for Windows Mobile 6.5, its last significant update to the current generation of its smartphone OS. The first devices to use the new platform should reach shops on October 6th. It's not said which evices will be the first, but HP, HTC, LG, Samsung and unusually Toshiba will be the first to have 6.5-equipped smartphones in North America. AT&T, Sprint and Verizon will be the first in the US, while Bell and Telus should do the same in Canada.
HTC has already said that the Touch Diamond2 and Touch Pro2 can be upgraded from 6.1 to 6.5 should carriers offer a patch, but it's more likely to appear first in built-for-6.5 models like the Leo. HP's model should be the iPAQ K3, while LG's may be the Monaco and Samsung's should be the Omnia II. A Toshiba launch would be the company's first for a smartphone in the US and may involve the TG02 or TG03, both high-speed phones with 1GHz Snapdragon processors and very large 4.1-inch touchscreens.
The OS is only now launching following an introduction in February and focuses primarily on touch, with larger controls at the home and lock screens as well as a sometimes visible, Zune-like menu. It also brings home screen widgets and Microsoft's first reasonably accurate version of Internet Explorer with built-in Flash Lite (but not regular Flash) support.
Accompanying the launch are Windows Marketplace for Mobile, a parallel to the iPhone's App Store that provides a centralized way to download third-party apps for any Windows Mobile 6 device, as well as My Phone, an online sync service for both essential data like contacts but also media stored on the phone.
The release is considered urgent for Microsoft. It recently said that it now doesn't expect its major revision, Windows Mobile 7, until late 2010 and so won't have support for multi-touch or other more modern features until three years after Windows Mobile 6.0, and the first iPhone, reached the market. Microsoft has been rapidly bleeding market share in the smartphone industry as some of its once-loyal companies have or will be shipping Android phones in place of some of their Windows Mobile devices, while other customers have switched to iPhones or BlackBerries. HTC will have the most material impact as Microsoft's favorite phone maker, but Motorola landed a symbolic blow this year when it said it would drop Windows Mobile for 2009 in favor of Android-only smartphones, one of which is known to be a high-end touchscreen model with specs very similar to the Touch Pro2.