I am off to CTIA in a few hours and am looking forward to finally getting my hands on some new Nokia devices, HTC devices, and hopefully a closer look at the Palm Pre. I hope there is more Android news than there was at Mobile World Congress last month, but there are not many rumors so it could still be light in that area. To kick off the CTIA news, Microsoft announced some official support for Windows phones as well as a change in policy, for the better, in regards to developers and the Windows Marketplace.
The following companies announced that they will be among the first to have applications in the Marketplace; AccuWeather.com., The Associated Press, CNBC, Developer One Mobile Software, EA Mobile, Facebook, Gameloft, Glu Mobile, Handmark, Ilium Software Inc., Jeyo Inc., Kinoma, LiteScape, Magmic Games, Melodis Corp., MySpace, Namco Networks, Netflix, Pandora, PhatWare Corp., Resco s.r.o., ShoZu Inc., Sling Media Inc., SBSH Mobile Software, Spb Software, Web Information Solutions Inc. and Zagat Survey. Windows Marketplace will launch with Windows Mobile 6.5 this Fall and you will be able to pay directly with a credit card or have the charges appear on your phone bill. Like the Android Market, you will also get a 24-hour full refund period which I think is completely reasonable and good for both the user and developer.
Microsoft also announced a new Theme Generator that will help make it easy for you to create a them on your PC and then have it sent to your phone. It has been a bit of a pain in the past to customize your phone, other than the wallpaper, so this is a welcome announcement. They will also have some designer themes available for free later this year, from the Design Museum London and Council of Fashion Designers of America as Microsoft looks to move further into the consumer space.
A new Facebook application will be available in April for free for Windows phones and since it is coming in April I imagine that will be for Windows Mobile 6.1 devices. Windows Live for Mobile will be available this week for free in 25 languages and will support Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Contacts, Windows Live Spaces, and Windows Live Search. Point your Windows Mobile 6.x browser to wl.windowsmobile.com on 2 April to get this suite.
The policy for developers to be charged for updates after the seven-day window has been updated and developers will be able to make updates to their applications throughout the application lifecycle with no additional charges. It is great to see Microsoft listening and responding quickly to feedback from the community.
Regarding Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrades, Microsoft has stated that there may also be instances where a partner could support a 6.5 upgrade with a 6.1 phone currently out in the market today, if the hardware meets the minimum requirements (which is 128 MB of RAM and 400 Mhz processor). We know that the HTC Touch Diamond2 and HTC Touch Pro2 will be upgradeable, but it is up to the partners (carrier and manufacturer) to determine if other devices will be upgraded. The safest bet is to buy one that you know will be upgradeable.