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Microsoft still has no iPhone answer

Microsoft's announcements at the Mobile World Congress show that the company's still got its head in the sand when it comes to competing against the iPhone.

Most of Microsoft's announcements Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona were leaked weeks ago, so there weren't any big surprises.

Now where the heck's the Zune icon on this thing? Microsoft

There's a new mobile OS, Windows Mobile 6.5, that's supposed to be friendlier than the notoriously clunky earlier versions. (ZDNet's mobile maven Matthew Miller is still disappointed.)

There's a set of cloud-based services for synchronizing data like contacts and photos. (Although apparently v.1 will not be connected with the Windows Live or Live Mesh platforms or services, so the vision of unified data sync across devices is still a whiteboard drawing as far as Microsoft products and services are concerned.)

There's a marketplace for Windows Mobile apps. There's a brand change--the phones will be called "Windows Phones," although the OS is still "Windows Mobile." (Confused?) Oh, and the company has finally acknowledged that competing in the consumer space is important, a year and a half after CEO Steve Ballmer dismissed the iPhone as a "$500 subsidized item" that had "no chance" of gaining any significant market share.

Assuming that any of this makes you want to run out and buy a Windows Mobile phone, too bad. None of it's available until late this year.

I'll give Microsoft some credit for envisioning and beginning to build a free alternative to Apple's MobileMe service. And the mobile marketplace is a no-brainer. But Monday's announcements just underscore that Microsoft has no answer to the iPhone.

There was no entertainment component to the announcements. No port of the Zune client software or marketplace to the phone. No online storage service for music. No mention of where the Danger acquisition went or what former Mac Business Unit head Roz Ho's working on.

Microsoft's mobile head, Andy Lees, did promise that the company's going to make some other exciting announcements over the next 12 to 18 months, so I guess crawl, walk, run is the strategy. But Microsoft has sure been crawling for a long time. And the list of toddlers is growing, with Google's Android continuing to draw attention, Nokia continuing to update its Ovi services, and even Palm coming back from the dead. Not to mention well-regarded competitors like Apple and RIM.

This isn't a monopoly or a slow-moving market with very high barriers to entry like console gaming. This is a highly competitive space where turnover is incredibly quick, innovation will win, and laggards will die. For Microsoft's sake, I hope they've got a lot more mobile news in the pipeline.

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