In order to compete against the Apple iPhone, the Palm Pre and other smartphones that dominate the smartphone market, Microsoft has updated a number of interface features in Windows Mobile 6.5, including improving touch capabilities and adding customizable widgets.
Windows Marketplace for Mobile represents another vital aspect of Microsoft's strategy in the mobile space. By the time the mobile application store launches, Microsoft plans to have 600 applications available for download-more than Palm's App Catalog, but far less than the 65,000 applications on offer through Apple's App Store.
Perhaps in a bid to encourage loyalty among developers, Microsoft has been suggesting that the community charge higher prices for any applications developed for Windows Mobile. "We would definitely want to promote [the idea] that you make more money selling applications than selling your application in a dollar store," Loke Uei Tan, senior technical product manager for Microsoft's Mobile Developer Experience team, told a gathering of mobile application developers on Aug. 19.
An August report from Gartner found that, although smartphone sales increased industrywide by 27 percent during the second quarter, Microsoft's share of the smartphone operating system market had declined to around 9 percent.
In order to better fight this uphill battle against other IT giants already entrenched in the smartphone arena, Microsoft may release the next-generation Windows Mobile 7 in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to recent rumors from Taiwan. That version of the operating system will supposedly feature functionality designed to allow it to compete head-to-head against higher-end devices such as the iPhone and the Pre.
The rewards for victory-or at least maintenance of market share within the space-are potentially enormous: a recent report by Juniper Research suggested that the number of mobile application downloads will approach nearly 20 billion per year by 2014.