The 'Windows Phone' era officially starts today

Today, we finally welcome Windows Mobile 6.5 and the "Windows Phone" platform from Microsoft. As a part of today's Windows Mobile 6.5 debut, the new Windows Mobile Marketplace app store has opened for business, the new Bing for Mobile app has been unveiled, the My Phone sync and security service has been launched, the first Windows Mobile 6.5 devices have been announced, and the list of Windows Mobile 6.1 devices that can be upgraded to 6.5 has been published.

Microsoft is fully in mobile mode today.

The list of devices shipping in the US with Windows Mobile 6.5 pre-installed is somewhat small, including only three HTC devices (Pure, Imagio, Tilt 2) and one Samsung device (Intrepid, due in less than a week on Sprint). But Microsoft has also unveiled the full list of devices which can be upgraded from Windows Mobile 6.1 to 6.5, which adds eight more devices to the list: HTC Dash, Ozone, Snap, and Touch Pro 2; Samsung Jack, Mirage, and Omnia Pro; and the Pharos Traveler 137.

Worldwide, Microsoft will have Windows Mobile 6.5 on more than 30 phones in 20 countries before the end of 2009.

My Phone, which has been in beta since May is Microsoft's free cloud-based sync service that automatically backs up a user's contacts, photos, video, text messages and calendar data to a password-protected site and also lets users directly upload content to Windows Live, Facebook, MySpace or Flickr.

The $4.99 premium My Phone package includes features that help users who have lost their device. It also includes Web-based GPS location of lost phones, the ability to remotely lock a device with an "if found..." message, or remotely wipe all data. It can even blast a loud location alarm in case the device has been misplaced, has fallen between the couch cushions, or has otherwise disappeared without actually being lost.

Finally, the Windows Marketplace rounds out today's offerings in Microsoft's mobile environment. The new marketplace app is only a part of the greater plan for mobile software distribution. Right now, it only includes free and for-pay apps (up to around $30) directly downloadable to a user's phone, but will eventually include a PC-based app catalog and mobile carrier side billing. The complete service will be tied together with a user's Windows Live ID and will let apps be installed on as many as five devices.

The meat of today's announcements actually has very little to do with Windows Mobile 6.5 itself, which is simply a finger-friendly incremental update to a largely unchanged operating system. In fact, though the mobile operating system ties all of these services together, the most important thing to take away today is that Microsoft has built a complete consumer mobile experience that strives to be as comprehensive as its enterprise experience.

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