In something of an admission that it's been looking at the consumer mobile market all wrong, Microsoft has announced it's completely rebranding its mobile offerings as 'Windows Phone'.
From now on, Windows Phone will be the umbrella term for all things Windows Mobile, including the brand-new WinMo operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5, which was unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today.
Windows Mobile 6.5 has a completely overhauled user interface, featuring a large honeycomb-style grid of icons. IE Mobile 6 was also announced, and in line with the more consumer-oriented focus of Windows Phone, promises a more user-friendly Web browsing experience.
Adobe Flash is built in as standard, but the other big win for the new Windows Phone platform is Microsoft's application store, officially named Windows Mobile Marketplace. Like the app store on Apple's iPhone, the Windows Mobile Marketplace offers users a single destination to download mobile applications from Microsoft and third-party developers, such as Facebook, directly to the handset.
The Marketplace is pegged to go live in the fourth quarter of 2009, proving for sure that Microsoft is nothing if not late to the mobile marketplace -- Apple and Google have had app stores since 2008. But better late than never.
Microsoft's other major announcement was its My Phone service. My Phone is essentially a mobile backup solution, not dissimilar to Apple's MobileMe. It'll allow a complete backup of personal data such as contacts, messages and MP3s, over 3G networks or Wi-Fi, to Microsoft's backup facility. Lost your phone? Just get a new one, log in, and your data's pulled right back down to the new handset.
What's more, My Phone will be free, supported by advertising -- but not on the phone. Your backed-up files will be accessible on your PC, and ads will be displayed as you browse these on your computer. But if you only use your phone, you won't see ads.
At the time of our briefing, total storage for My Phone wasn't set in stone. Internally, Microsoft has been testing the service with 200MB, but it's almost certain it will be in the region of 25GB when it launches later this year.
We expect to see much more of Windows Phone and Windows Mobile 6.5 as this year's Mobile World Congress progresses, but until then have a peek at some hot-off-the-press official screenshots of Windows Mobile 6.5's revamped user interface over the next few pages.