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During the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Windows Mobile 6.5 was announced, however not much information was revealed about the second service: Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Just befor the start of CTIA 2009 Microsoft has a lot of new things to announce:

  1. More details on Windows Marketplace for Mobile,
  2. Individual customization of the Windows Phone,
  3. New ways to connect with friends and family (social networking).

This article looks at al the three key topics in more detail, complemented with some early thoughts.

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1.  Windows Marketplace for Mobile

The screenshots above provide a good idea how the Windows Marketplace for  Mobile will look like. The press  release provides a list a of top application developers who commited to the Windows Marketplace for Mobile program. Personally it is good to see such an extensive list, and there are really great developers on this list, which means quality on-board !!

“Companies representing the top-selling categories of mobile applications today signed on to be among the first to offer applications through Windows Marketplace for Mobile. They include 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.” [ref01]

However the Windows Marketplace for Mobile seems to be announced -at leat according to the press release- for the next generation of Windows Phone, which simply means Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. Personally I think this is the wrong decision, because the Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 userbase is large, while Windows Mobile 6.5 will be on relative few devices by the end of the year. Windows Marketplace for Mobile should be a downloadable application, that is backwards compatible with Windows Mobile 6.

“Resulting applications will provide new and unique gaming, social networking, media, utility and personal productivity experiences for the next generation of Windows phones.” [ref01]

Finally an interesting option is that Mobile Operators can partner with Microsoft on the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The operator can get access to a specific (branded) set of software titels from the whole population of titels on the Marketplace. Although I live in the Netherlands I won a Samsung BlackJack II, which is fully loaded with AT&T custom software. I hope that throught partnering the amount of this specific software is limited so that end-users can add their own prefered software titles.

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2. Customized Themes for Windows Mobile 6.5

On the current Windows Mobile devices it is sometimes tricky to personalize the device in terms graphics.  Apple iPhone, Google Android, Symbian S60 and Windows Mobile all serve a specific set of customers. The buying process of a mobile device is becoming more and more comperable with buying a car:  “an emotional purchase”. Microsoft takes the personal representation, customization and individualization of a Windows Phone to the next level !

“Through new partnerships with the Design Museum London and Council of Fashion Designers of America, Microsoft will offer a variety of free* designer themes to help people express their personal style on Windows phones. Microsoft today announced Mizrahi as the first in a series of designers to create exclusive themes, including color palettes and wallpaper.” [ref01]

The Mizrahi designs are shown in the screenshots above.

“In addition, the new Theme Generator will provide people with yet another way to personalize their Windows phone. The Theme Generator, available at http://www.windowsmobile.com later this year, will enable Windows phone users to select pictures from their PC to set as background images, as well as choose colors to personalize their navigation bar, scroll bar and highlighted text. Once finished, their personal theme will be sent to their phone.” [ref01]

This theme generator is a very cool tool to easily personalize your device, and could be combined with the MyPhone Service I wrote about earlier this year, or other services. However currently it seems like the Theme Generator will only support Windows Mobile Professional devices, and not Windows Mobile Standard devices. It’s a fair decision since the whole process of customizing a skinning is totally different, which means two different products and two different development cycles.

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3.  Social networking and more

I think the booming of social networking doesn’t need any further explenation.  Screenshots of the new Facebook application are shown above. Microsoft did also three announcements in the social networking area:

“Windows Mobile users will be able to engage and experience some of the most popular global social networks right from their Windows phone, including Facebook, MySpace and Windows Live.

  • Microsoft has created a new Facebook application, available for Windows phones for free* in April, that makes it easy for people to capture video on their phone and upload it to Facebook.
  • A new MySpace application, available for free* this summer, gives Windows phone customers real-time access to their global MySpace network. LG Electronics Inc. will preload the MySpace application on its Windows phones.
  • Microsoft also announced that Windows Live for Mobile will be available for free download this week for customers in 25 languages. Windows Live for Mobile is the company’s mobile suite of Internet services designed specifically to take advantage of the Windows Mobile platform. It includes mobile versions of Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Contacts, Windows Live Spaces, Microsoft Live Search and enhanced photo upload capabilities.” [ref01]

The Facebook application will be compatible with Windows Mobile 6.1 and higher. Within the Live services there is some additional good news on the Hotmail-front.

“The company also will launch a new beta version of Windows Live Hotmail available through a mobile Web browser. The release includes a new and improved user interface, navigation enhancements for touch-screen devices, the ability to see full HTML pages within e-mail messages and a new search feature that enables people to find important e-mail messages more easily.” [ref01]

Some personal thoughts

At first I simply CAN’T understand the business reasoning why the Windows Marketplace for Mobile isn’t Windows Mobile 6.0 (and higher) compatible. I had the chance to use the Google Android G1 with the linked Android Marketplace. There I became aware how easy and convenient it is to search for, download and install top applications from one central place without accessing each developers website. This ease of use is also applicable to the CURRENT userbase, since not everyone is an early-adopter or geek buying the latest device.

It is a cool trend to see large companies hooking up with designers from the fashion sector, like HP did for the Vivienne Tam edition of the HP Mini 1000 netbook. The theme generator can become a very cool feature, since sometimes it is not easy to create a theme for your Windows Mobile device.  Furthermore it is a unique service, which no other mobile platform offers (to my knowledge).

Finally social networking is becoming more and more important. And in line with the strategy of using software or services on your pc, in the cloud and on you mobile device, it’s good to see Microsoft developing on this front. Special interest has the Facebook application, as well as the Windows Live Messenger. I like the idea that these programs are offered via download, and can be installed on any device (if compatible of course). This concept should also be applied to IE6 for Mobile, which currently only is available pre-loaded in the Palm Treo Pro ROM. To get your applications out to the large public, your business model needs to outperform competition …

I’m looking forward to the keynote of Mobile Entertainment & Devices President Robbie Bach @ CTIA 2009. Hopefully we can see some very nice live demo’s of the applications and services addressed in this article.

Reference list

  1. MICROSOFT PRESSPASS:  Microsoft gains support for next generation Windows Phones
  2. THEUNWIRED:  ROADMAP: Microsoft gains support for next generation Windows Phones
  3. ENGADGET MOBILE:  Microsoft announces Windows Marketplace partners, tweaked policies, designer WinMo 6.5 themes
 
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