Windows Mobile 7 may be closer than many think.
According to a report from at least one major handset maker, Microsoft is planning to make available the final bits of its next mobile operating-system release in time for them to start selling Windows Mobile 7 phones in the first quarter of 2009. If true, that would seem to imply that Microsoft will release the final Windows Mobile 7 by the end of 2008, in order to give phone makers time to test and preload.
As is the case with Windows 7, Windows Mobile 7 is a forbidden topic. Microsoft won't talk about planned features, beta dates or how/when/if Windows Mobile phones will become more head-to-head competitors with the iPhone.
(I am wondering whether Microsoft might finally share some Windows Mobile 7 info at its Worldwide Partner Conference in early July, given that Andy Lees, the newly appointed Senior VP of Microsoft's Mobile Communications business is on the keynote line-up. If Microsoft really is going to deliver the final Windows Mobile 7 bits later this year, one would think it needs to be evangelizing about it now.)
There have been a few leaks about what Microsoft is planning for Windows Mobile 7 and Windows Mobile 8. Not too surprisingly, multi-touch and gesture-recognition support are on the docket. The user interface for Windows Mobile phones is slated to get an overhaul, making it more consumer friendly. And, at some point, consumer-focused services beyond Windows Live -- things like music and photo-management, will find their way onto Windows Mobile devices via Microsoft's Project Pink and Danger acquisition.
Until now, the only target date for Windows Mobile 7 I had seen leak was "some time in 2009." But the Phone Report earlier this week quoted an official with HTC saying the company planned to deliver a Windows Mobile 7 phone in Q1 2009, and an Android-based HTC phone in Q4 2008, by the way.
From recent executive remarks, it sounds like Microsoft is trying to get Windows and Windows Mobile to be more in sync. Might this mean with Windows Mobile 8 -- which Microsoft has told certain folks will be built from scratch -- Microsoft might make Windows Mobile a "real" version of Windows, with the same core as Windows client?