Microsoft officials had been saying for the past couple of months that the first Windows Mobile 6.5 phones would be available in October 2009. Today, they got more specific and said October 6 will be the general availability date.
(October 6 also happens to be the day of Microsoft's first-annual consumer-products open house event for invited press and analysts in New York City. Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach is slated to show off Windows Phones, the uber-brand for Windows Mobile phones; the Zune HD; Xbox 360; Windows 7; and Microsoft hardware that will be available for the holidays.)
As expected, Microsoft is planning to launch its My Phone ("Skybox") service for storing and accessing mobile-phone information and the new Windows Marketplace for Mobile online app store on October 6, as well. A redesigned version of IE 6, built-in support for Adobe FlashLite (but not Microsoft's own Silverlight) and Microsoft Office Mobile (but not the 2010-based version) are also slated to be available as part of the Win Mobile 6.5 release.
In addition to sharing the retail-availability date, Microsoft also made public on September 1 a list of phone makers and mobile operators who will be offering Windows Mobile 6.5 phones.
In North America, they include AT&T, Bell Mobility, Sprint, TELUS and Verizon Wireless, and phone manufacturers HP, HTC Corp., LG Electronics, Samsung and Toshiba Corporation. In Europe, Microsoft's 6.5 partners are Orange, T-Mobile International AG and Vodafone Group Plc, and phone manufacturers Acer, HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba Corporation In Latin America, partners include Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) Brasil, and phone manufacturers HTC, LG Electronics and Samsung And in Asia/Pacific, Microsoft's Win Mobile 6.5 partners are NTT DoCoMo Inc., SoftBank Mobile Corp., SK Telecom, Telstra and WILLCOM Inc., and phone manufacturers Acer Inc., HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba Corporation.
Microsoft didn't offer any new details today about its Windows Mobile 7 roadmap or expected partners. Windows Mobile 7 is expected to be Microsoft's "major" phone OS release, with support for multi-touch and capacitive screens allegedly on the Win Mobile 7 feature list. Microsoft had been targeting Fall 2009 as the date via which it planned to get Win Mobile 7 code to phone makers. But according to a recent report -- which Microsoft refused to confirm or deny -- partners may not be getting the Win Mobile 7 bits until the first part of 2010, resulting in a Win Mobile 7 release date of late 2010, instead of the until-recently-expected spring 2010.
Starting with Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft is launching a concerted effort go after the consumer audience more than just the business one and is recruiting more consumer-app developers to build gaming, music and other consumer-oriented apps for the platform. But that doesn't mean all Windows Phones running Win Mobile 6.5 are going that route, said Paul Bryan, Senior Director of Business Experience Product Management on the Windows Mobile team.
"We are trying to meet the needs of a broader set of customers and provide more balance between work and play," Bryan said. "The business side (of the Win Mobile business) will continue to be strong, with the availability of Exchange and Outlook, a new version of Office Communicator coming, and better security and manageability."
Anyone out there clamoring for a Win Mobile 6.5 phone? Why or why not? (I'm asking because I am due for a phone upgrade and am on the fence whether to finally give Windows Mobile a try....)