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12/31/2009
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Microsoft Bringing Xbox Live To Windows Mobile

Job posting out of Redmond indicate Microsoft is likely planning to integrate its Xbox Live online gaming platform with Windows Mobile.

Microsoft has recently posted job ads which indicate the software maker plans to integrate its Xbox Live online gaming platform with Windows Mobile.

The postings, first reported by MobileTechWorld, are for a principal program manager and a software test engineer.

The manager position was filled as of Dec. 23, but the original posting made some not-so-subtle references to Windows Mobile.

"We need a Principlal Program Manager who can help drive the platform and bring Xbox LIVE enabled games to Windows Mobile," the listing said. "This person will focus specifically on what makes gaming experiences 'Live Enabled' through aspects such as avatar integration, social interactions, and multi-screen experiences."

The job posting for software tester was less clear, but still pointed to bringing more entertainment to Windows Mobile, possibly the next version, Windows Mobile 7.

"Do you think mobile gaming and always connected Internet has the potential to change the way people play games? If so then the Mobile Entertainment is where you need to be," the ad says. The posting ends with: "You will report to the Gaming Test Lead in the Windows Mobile Entertainment team and have the opportunity to make a critical impact the next release of Windows Mobile."

Microsoft had not responded Thursday to a request for comment by InformationWeek at posting time. [Update, 1pm Thursday: A Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email: "Our focus is on Windows phones and experiences in market today, and we're not discussing future versions."]

Taking Xbox Live to Windows Mobile would certainly make sense. Today, devices using the platform can't compete with Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch in user interface or as a gaming platform. In the latter arena, the Apple devices are growing quickly in popularity, driven mostly by the thousands of games available on Apple's App Store.

What remains to be seen is whether Microsoft will take Xbox Live to the new Windows Mobile 7 platform, which is expected in the fourth quarter of next year. Windows Mobile 7 is seen as a critical release for Microsoft, which needs to close the feature gap between its platform and competitors, particularly the iPhone and Google Android devices. If Microsoft fails to impress consumers, it risks falling out of the competition.

Another question is whether Microsoft would launch its own Windows Mobile-based gaming handset, taking on Sony's PlayStation Portable. If that is in Microsoft's plans, then that opens up questions as to the future of the Zune HD, Microsoft's portable media player that has failed to make the slightest dent in market share against Apple's iPod line.

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