LG Electronics announced on Sept. 3 that it would launch three smartphones within “the next few weeks” equipped with Microsoft‘s Windows Mobile 6.5, and would release 13 Windows phones in total by the end of 2010. By doing so, LG joined other smartphone makers planning to port the operating system onto their devices.
Microsoft previously announced that Windows Mobile 6.5 would be available on Oct. 6. The three LG phones will be introduced in Europe, the United States and Asia before expanding globally at a later unspecified date; the models will include “a full touch-screen device, a touch slider with QWERTY keyboard and a QWERTY bar-type handset.”
The LG phones will also include the LG Application Store, which will feature 2,000 downloadable applications. There was no word on how that would interact – or conflict – with Microsoft’s own mobile-applications store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile.
In what has become a busy week of announcements surrounding Windows Mobile 6.5, HTC and Sony Ericsson also announced smartphones for fall 2009 that would feature the new version of the operating system. Those phones, the HTC Touch2 and Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X2, will also include functionality such as Flash-supporting Internet Explorer Mobile and expanded touch-screen support.
The HTC Touch2 is slated to debut on Oct. 2, with broad availability in “a variety of European and Asian markets in early Q4 2009,” while no firm date was given for the rollout of the Xperia X2.
Microsoft is taking several steps in an attempt to make headway against Apple’s iPhone, the Palm Pre, RIM’s BlackBerry line, and other smartphones that have a substantial foothold on the mobile marketplace. In addition to Windows Marketplace for Mobile, which will debut in October with 600 applications for consumers and businesses, Microsoft is also planning a broad debut of Windows Mobile 6.5 on phones manufactured by HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Toshiba. Networks that support the operating system will include AT&T, Bell Mobility, TELUS and Verizon Wireless.
Although Microsoft has updated a number of interface features in Windows Mobile 6.5, ranging from improved touch capabilities to customizable widgets, rumors abounded in August that Redmond was planning yet another release for the fourth quarter of 2010, Windows Mobile 7, that would include functionality designed to let the operating system compete against the Apple iPhone and the Palm Pre.
Microsoft also plans on differentiating itself in the market, and perhaps obtaining more developer loyalty, by suggesting that applications designed for Windows Mobile be sold at higher prices than the Apps for the Apple iPhone.
Although smartphone sales increased industrywide by 27 percent in the second quarter of 2009, Microsoft has found its own share of the smartphone operating system market steadily eroding, falling during that period to around 9 percent. If its initiatives in the mobile realm fail, the company risks missing out on an expanding market that may see mobile application downloads approach nearly 20 billion per year by 2014.