At the Mobile World Congress show, what Microsoft didn't roll out is as interesting as what it did.
During a February 16 press conference at the show (thanks to LiveSide for the Webcast link), CEO Steve Ballmer and Senior Vice President of Mobile Communications Andy Lees told attendees that the company is making some tweaks to its mobile strategy: It is no longer focusing primarily on business customers, but both business and consumer users; and is no longer thinking about mobile devices in a vacuum (instead it's now about phones and software and services).
Microsoft is rebranding Windows Mobile phones as "Windows phones" -- but seemingly is continuing to call the phone operating system "Windows Mobile." (Yes, Microsoft's branding strategy still leaves a lot to be desired.)
Here's the list of what Microsoft did introduce (alongside of a handful of partnerships for Windows Mobile) at the Barcelona mobile confab on February 16:
Windows Mobile 6.5: The next version of Microsoft's phone operating system, which will appear on new phones starting in the second half of 2009. The Windows Mobile 6.5 release will feature a new, touch-enabled user interface; new home screen; customizable widgets; and Internet Explorer 6.1, the latest version of Microsoft's mobile browser. My ZDNet blogging colleague Matthew Miller is disappointed in the 6.5 release (he has a few screen shots over on his site).
Microsoft My Phone: A new mobile service, formerly codenamed Skybox, that can "sync text messages, photos, video, contacts and more to the Web." A limited, invitation-only beta is now open. (Microsoft didn't talk about the roadmap for My Phone, but I hear Version 1.0 launches this fall and Version 2.0 in 2010)
Windows Marketplace for Mobile: As Microsoft describes it, "a rich and integrated marketplace for searching, browsing and purchasing mobile applications from Windows® phones or from a PC by simply using a Windows Live ID." The Marketplace goes live this fall, starting on Windows Mobile 6.5 phones. Recite: A new voice-enabled application for Windows Mobile phones that allows users to record short notes and recall them using voice search. Recite is now available in technical-preview test form.
Here's what Microsoft officials didn't discuss at the show, which some have been expecting them to:
Skyline: Another new Windows Mobile service (which may or may not ultimately by rebranded as Outlook Live). Skyline is a service that will allow users to have pushed to them both work and personal mail, contacts and calendar items.
Zune Mobile: The set of Zune music and video purchasing/sharing/playback services that Microsoft is readying for mobile devices. Given Microsoft's public silence on this, I'd guess we won't see this now until 2010, around the time Windows Mobile 7.0 launches. Other Pink/Rouge services: Pink is thought to be the set of consumer-focused services (beyond Zune Mobile) that Microsoft will make available to phone makers; Rouge is the set of business/unified-communications services the company is believed to be developing. Microsoft still won't even acknowledge publicly these codenames, let alone what is part of each forthcoming family of services.
Windows Mobile 7.0: The next version of Windows Mobile, which I've heard will be available on new phones by April 2010.
A Microsoft-branded phone: While many company watchers believe Microsoft is readying its own branded phone, I hear that -- at least for the next couple of years -- there won't be a Microsoft-branded phone coming to market. Microsoft is working on a chasis reference design but, at least for the near term, Microsoft is leaving the smartphone manufacturing and branding to its phone partners. Do expect Microsoft to do more joint R&D and investment on Windows phones (like it announced on February 16 with LG), however.