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App Stores Shine At Mobile World Congress

Thanks to the success of Apple's App Store, every major player now has a virtual storefront for customers to browse, buy, download, and install mobile applications on their handsets.
Windows Mobile received a big boost from LG Electronics, as the company said Microsoft's mobile platform will be its primary software for smartphones. The consumer electronics company committed to bringing out 50 devices over the life of the deal and said it will bring out 26 Windows handsets by 2012.

HTC also unveiled a pair of attractive Windows Mobile handsets with updates to its Touch line of smartphones. The business-centric Touch Pro 2 has a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, 3.6-inch screen, Wi-Fi, GPS, and enterprise e-mail capabilities. The Touch Diamond 2 ditches the keyboard for an all-touch interface, and it also has a 5-megapixel camera. Both handsets will be powered by Windows Mobile 6.1, but they are able to upgrade to 6.5 when Microsoft releases it.

With multiple Android smartphones slated to be released in 2009, many industry watchers expected Mobile World Congress to be full of new handset announcements. Besides the HTC Magic and a prototype shown by General Mobile, there was a dearth of official announcements about new smartphones with Google's open source mobile operating system. Huawei and Samsung did commit to bringing out multiple handsets by the end of the year, but Android fans did not see models or prototypes from Open Handset Alliance members like Sony Ericsson, Garmin, and Motorola.

This doesn't mean Android has yet to gain traction among manufacturers, as the source code itself was only fully released last October. While Google undoubtedly gave some manufacturers access to Android's code before the release, it typically takes about 12 to 18 months to design, manufacture, and release a new phone.

Motorola has been unable to find a hit handset for years, and it's reportedly working on an Android-based smartphone to help it make a comeback. But Motorola did not announce any new handsets of any operating system during the trade show, and it focused on its Long Term Evolution and Wi-Fi networking equipment.

Palm made its splashy announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, so expectations were low for any major news. The company confirmed there would be a GSM version of its Pre smartphone and also said Flash 10 would be coming to its webOS platform. The company is also working on a software development kit for the upcoming platform, but it probably won't get into the hands of content makers until the Pre's launch.

Learn more about all the latest mobile products and networking technologies at TechWeb's Interop Las Vegas, May 17-21. Join us (registration required).