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Microsoft, along with its carriers and device manufacturer partners, made a splash with the global release of Windows Mobile 6.5 today and unveiled over 30 retail Windows phones from HTC, LG, Acer, Samsung and Toshiba. The new Windows Mobile features aim to seduce consumers with a touch-screen friendly experience and deflect the delay of Windows Mobile 7, which many anticipate is Microsoft’s game-changer in its mobile OS war with Apple. Today’s version provides new consumer-focused features, but also reaffirms that Microsoft is in the mobile business game to stay. 

Some Microsoft application development partners see the Windows Mobile 6.5 release as new opportunity to target white-collar business applications. Along with free lifestyle and gaming applications, Microsoft is making some business applications available through its new Microsoft Windows Marketplace for Mobile, delivering a device that spans “work to home to play,” including a mobile version of
Microsoft application partner ADC Technologies thinks version 6.5 presents an interesting opportunity to secure new customers.

“We are optimistic that the improved user experience offered by new retail devices running Windows Mobile 6.5 will interest prosumers and sales professionals that otherwise may only have considered Blackberrys or iPhones,” said Doug Migliori, vice president of sales at ADC. “This should increase the demand for our mobile sales solution for Microsoft Dynamics, as well as our personal productivity applications.”

Ramon Llamas, senior analyst with IDC believes Windows Mobile 6.5 is a tangible improvement over the previous version, Windows Mobile 6.1. When asked for his thoughts on the new release, Ramon Llamas, Senior Analyst with IDC, said, “One word – Intuitive.”

"Windows Mobile, in previous forms was – find a start button and work from there. Users didn’t want to deal with that,” Llamas continued. “Intuitive. That’s the name of the game today. When people look at the iPhone, it’s not just a sexy device, it’s a sexy experience. Our behavior is not list based, we are icon based. That’s what people want on their devices.”

Windows Mobile 6.5 aims to improve on the traditional Windows Mobile experience, while providing users with a seamless experience from PC to mobile device.  The WinMo start menu is gone, replaced with touch-friendly icons and scrolling honeycomb screen. Contrary to leaks and early reports, the icons are not customizable and cannot be moved or removed.  Users can also access a revamped mobile browser that supports built-in Adobe Flash Lite. Enterprise users may be satisfied knowing Mobile Outlook and Mobile Office features are available.

The new free My Phone service sounds promising and may eliminate the need for enterprise users and application partners to buy or integrate third-party device management software. The My Phone service automatically backs-up content on a password-protected site and allows users to track the location of a lost device, lock it down and erase it, if needed, to protect personal information.
Microsoft and its partners went to great lengths to drum up excitement for the new hardware and software by coordinating a well-planned, global launch with participating device manufacturers and carriers across the globe. However, it remains to be seen if the new Windows phones can satisfy tech-savvy consumers and stop Microsoft’s sliding smart phone market share long enough for Microsoft to release Windows Mobile 7.