Microsoft is roaring into CTIA. Redmond's grab bag of assorted announcements take in new Windows Live applications, the Windows Mobile application Marketplace (including word of that), and new themes featuring designs from haute fashionista (and Target chum) Isaac Mizrahi. The news gives Microsoft's mobile arm a much-needed jolt of excitement to follow up on its February announcement of the .
Windows Live, Hotmail, Facebook
For more than a year, we've been wondering when Facebook and Microsoft were going to grace Windows Mobile phones with an official and native Facebook app like its free, downloadable applications for BlackBerry, iPhone, and Palm. While we weren't able to get anything out of Facebook back then, on Tuesday, Microsoft made Facebook's presence official. Microsoft's Facebook application is due in April, followed by a native MySpace application set to descend sometime "in summer."
For those who live in the moment, Microsoft has already made Windows Live for Windows Mobile available to download on platforms running version 6 of the operating system or higher. The Windows Live services suite installs mobile versions of Hotmail, Messenger, Live Contacts, Spaces, and Live Search on the phone. Those with older phones can still access Hotmail with a new beta version optimized for the Web, accessible at m.mail.live.com.
Windows Marketplace: Apps and refunds
Not to be outdone by Apple and BlackBerry, Microsoft is readying its own application storefront, dubbed Windows Marketplace for Mobile. The few details released in advance of Microsoft's Thursday keynote showcase application developers whose apps will be featured in the mobile Marketplace. EA Mobile, Gameloft, and Hands-On Mobile are well-known game makers. AP Mobile, Accuweather, and Pandora also stand out in an otherwise obscure lineup.
Also Marketplace related, Microsoft says it will let customers buy applications two ways--through a credit card, or as an add-on to the monthly cellular bill. In addition, Microsoft will let remorseful users return unwanted applications within 24 hours of purchasing, a refund service that neither Apple nor RIM has offered so far for the iTunes App Store or forthcoming BlackBerry App World.
Haute interface themes
Microsoft hasn't traditionally been hailed as computing's graphical genius, but its recent efforts at interesting design haven't gone unnoticed. Microsoft is taking that a step further with designer themes it's offering through luminaries of the likes of haute couture icon Isaac Mizrahi, among others that will be later announced. In addition, Microsoft's partnerships with Design Museum London and the Council of Fashion Designers of America will churn out additional themes. An online Theme Generator, set to release later in the year, will let you match the navigation and scroll bar colors to your select photo.
There's little doubt that Microsoft has more to share of its plans once CTIA gets officially underway--particularly details related to the Windows Marketplace for Mobile. We'll keep you posted.