Windows Live services for WM phones emerge from testing

After two years in development, the final veil is being lifted from Microsoft's suite of online services, some of which are now being made available for Windows Mobile smartphone users.

A majority of Microsoft's free online consumer services for Windows users have now been extended into the Windows Mobile space, now that testing on the concept -which has been under way since June 2006- has apparently ended.

As is typically the case with Microsoft products, its branding nomenclature is far from self-explanatory. What the company announced today is the formal release of what it's calling Windows Live for Windows Mobile. It is most of the services you'd find on the Web under the URL home.live.com, including Hotmail, which the company's mobile development group is still calling "Hotmail." Regular users will already have noted that Windows Live Hotmail and Windows Live Mail are different platforms; in the mobile edition, apparently, the former has prevailed.

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"Windows Live for Windows Mobile...lets my sync my email to my Windows Mobile phone," reads a blog post this morning from team developer Brandon LeBlanc. "With Push-Email, you can get your email from Windows Live Hotmail account as it comes in. The sync features for email in Windows Live for Windows Mobile let me view the same unread/read email messages on my Windows Mobile phone, desktop PC with Windows Live Mail, or via the web with Windows Live Hotmail. If I read an unread message on my phone, it not only becomes unread on my phone but also becomes unread in Windows Live Mail and on the web in Windows Live Hotmail."

Omitted from the mobile version of the service, however, is a Windows Live Messenger client in deference, according to LeBlanc, to cell phone manufacturers that prefer to offer their own IM and/or SMS clients. He pointed out that the Web-based version of Live Messenger may work with most phones' browsers.

If you're still keeping score at home, Windows Live Search is not part of the deal. In recent days, the "Windows" part of that service for the mobile space was truncated, and what's now being called "Live Search for Windows Mobile" is available as a separate service. This is not to be confused with "Live Search Mobile for Windows Mobile," which is a separate service tailored to pointing the user in the proper direction as opposed to looking up items on the Web. Live Search Mobile for BlackBerry devices remains in beta.

But wait, there's more. On Monday, Research in Motion announced that Microsoft will be developing certain of its Windows Live services, including Windows Live Hotmail (not Windows Live Mail) and Windows Live Messenger, for BlackBerry devices including the new Bold. Neither party has set a timetable. And what isn't clear from Monday's announcement is whether these services will be treated as "Windows Live for BlackBerry" -- a phrase that both companies conspicuously avoided using.

So while BlackBerry users get the Windows Live services, they may not get the Windows Live experience. Meanwhile, Windows Mobile users will get the Windows Live experience without all of the Windows Live services.

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