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Microsoft exec predicts big growth for Windows Mobile

A Microsoft executive in Asia says the company is expecting over 50 percent growth from its Windows Mobile operating system over the next couple of years, but it faces stiff competition from rivals.

Microsoft sees big growth for its Windows Mobile operating system.

A Microsoft executive in Asia told Reuters on Tuesday that sales will increase at least 50 percent over the next year as demand for smartphones picks up.

Eddie Wu, the software company's managing director of OEM embedded devices in Asia, said the company expects to sell 20 million "units" of its software in the 2007-2008 fiscal year, which ends in June, according to the article. And the company expects to grow at least 50 percent annually over the next two years, he added. Microsoft sold more than 11 million units of its Windows Mobile software in its 2006-2007 fiscal year, which ended June a year ago.

Wu told Reuters that the company is seeing the fastest growth in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Brazil, Russia, and India. Demand is also strong in Europe and the United States.

Windows Mobile is a software operating system used on smartphones. Companies such as Motorola, Samsung, and High Tech Electronics (HTC) have all released products that use it. And Sony Ericsson introduced a new Windows Mobile phone earlier this year at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Smartphones, which offer e-mail, Web surfing, music, and other Internet services, are growing in popularity. In the first quarter of 2008, sales of smartphones in the U.S. accounted for about 17 percent of all mobile phone sales, the NPD Group reported. This was an increase of 10 percent over the previous year. The increase in smartphone demand comes as sales of cell phones in general are declining in the U.S.

Microsoft has been working hard to cash in on the growing demand for smartphones. Earlier this year, Microsoft released version 6.1 of theWindows Mobile operating system. This version includes an updated browser, which is supposed to make Internet surfing on a mobile phone look and feel like it does on a desktop. The company also has added support for Adobe Systems' Flash.

Windows Mobile 6.1 will be available on a number of manufacturers' phones including HTC, Samsung Electronics, Motorola, and Pantech. And carriers including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, and Alltel have already announced that they will offer the upgrade.

Despite predictions for strong growth, Microsoft still faces tough competition, and it may have a hard time increasing its market share as competition intensifies. Apple is rumored to be getting ready to launch the 3G, or third-generation, version of the iPhone in a few weeks. The company has already announced software upgrades that should make the iPhone more appealing for business users.

What's more, new phones using Google's Android operating system will soon hit the market. And competitors such as Research In Motion with its BlackBerry devices and Symbian, which is used on Nokia and LG Electronics phones, are also expected to continue to grow.