Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 Offers New Features to Counter iPhone, Pre

Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5, the newest version of its operating system for mobile devices, includes improved touch capabilities and several screens specifically designed to answer similar features available on Apple's iPhone, the Palm Pre and other smartphones. In addition, Microsoft plans on rolling out Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which will allow developers to submit applications for use in the Windows Mobile ecosystem.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile 6.5, its upcoming operating system for mobile devices, includes a number of new features seemingly tailor-made to counter similar offerings from Apple's iPhone, the Palm Pre and other attention-grabbing smartphones.

The new features include improved touch capabilities, including gestures such as tapping, tapping and holding, panning, and flicking in order to navigate through the Mobile interface-a direct response to the touch-screen capabilities of the iPhone and Palm Pre.

In addition, Mobile's Start screen offers access to customizable widgets, as well as fast access to e-mail, and phone and instant messages. The screen itself has been divided into a honeycomb configuration for easier finger manipulation.

The Lock screen allows the user to input a pin in order to interact with message notifications, such as missed calls and voicemail, without necessarily needing to unlock the device.

The new version of the Internet Explorer Mobile browser, utilizing Adobe Flash Lite, has features tailored to mobile search, such as auto-complete suggestions and the ability to search within the address bar of the browser.

Microsoft's software for syncing and information backup, called My Phone, relies on users inputting their Windows Live ID to access and manage their personal content using the Web. In addition, Windows Mobile 6.5 includes support for Windows Live Search, and Windows Live Messenger for instant-messaging capabilities.

Starting this autumn, Windows Mobile 6.5 will also connect to Windows Marketplace for Mobile. On July 14, Microsoft announced that Windows Marketplace for Mobile will not only open itself later in the month to developer submissions, and feature a dedicated Business section for enterprise applications, but it will also support Windows Mobile 6.0 and Windows Mobile 6.1 devices.

This was a definite contrast to when Windows Marketplace was first announced and Microsoft insisted that only mobile devices running Windows Mobile 6.5 and above would be supported. By extending the umbrella to cover older versions of Windows Mobile, it seems that Microsoft is seeking a larger body of potential customers with which to complete against Apple, Research In Motion, Google and other companies that have already managed to build a substantial lead in the mobile space.

By the time Windows Marketplace launches, Microsoft plans to have 600 applications available. While this beats out Palm's App Catalogue, which passed the 1 million downloads mark on June 24, it lags far behind Apple's App Store, which has over 65,000 apps. Apple claims that some 1.5 billion apps have been downloaded so far.

According to certain writers, those sorts of numbers will translate into an uphill battle for Microsoft as it attempts to disseminate its vision for mobile computing. The potential rewards, however, are enormous; according to a report by Juniper Research, there will be nearly 20 billion mobile-application downloads per year by 2014.