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Microsoft To Launch Windows Mobile App Store

The software maker will roll out an Apple-style offering along with Web-based storage.

Microsoft is planning a range of new online services aimed at the world's growing population of mobile device users, according the company and published reports.

Microsoft last week set up a Web site that teases a new service called My Phone, which, according to the site, "syncs information between your mobile phone and the Web." My Phone will also let smartphone users back up and restore information to a password-protected Web site, access and update contacts and appointments through an online account, and share photos with family and friends.

Microsoft is promoting the service at a site called The site says My Phone is "coming soon" but it doesn't specify a launch date. It notes that My Phone is free "at this time" and that the service offers up to 200 MB of online storage.

My Phone is designed to work with most handhelds running Windows Mobile 6.0 or above.

Microsoft is also planning to launch an Apple-style online application store through which Windows Mobile users will be able to buy a range of applications for their devices, according to a report posted Sunday on The Wall Street Journal's Web site.

Citing sources familiar with Microsoft's plans, the newspaper described the forthcoming service as "an online bazaar for distributing software to cellular phones that run Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system." The report said Microsoft plans to formally introduce the service on Feb. 16 at an event in Barcelona, Spain.

As Windows' share of the PC operating system market declines in the face of competition from Macs and Linux -- sales of the OS fell 8% in the most recent quarter -- Microsoft needs to bolster its presence in the mobile device market to compensate.

From 2007 to 2008, Microsoft's share of the worldwide smartphone OS market increased 21%, to 13.3%, according to IDC. Symbian, which last year released its OS to the open source community, saw its market-leading share decline 24% over the same period to 48%. Research In Motion's share increased 57% to 15.5%, while Apple's iPhone share jumped 200% to 9%, according to IDC.

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