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Microsoft Releases Major Mobile Platform Update

Windows Mobile 5.0 will support 3G, Wi-Fi and additional storage devices such as built-in hard drives.
Microsoft Tuesday unveiled a major update to its Windows Mobile platform used by hardware vendors to create mobile devices such as smartphones and PDAs.

Among the features included in the update are support for persistent memory storage and support for advanced cellular network capabilities such as push-to-talk and videoconferencing. It will have built-in support for 3G networks, Wi-Fi and, according to the company, improved Bluetooth support.

The platform was unveiled by Bill Gates at the company's annual Mobile & Embedded DevCon conference for developers.

"In the past five years, there's been a profound shift in the kind of data and services people access on their mobile devices -- from multimedia to business applications," Gates said. "Windows Mobile 5.0 enables our industry partners to develop exciting new hardware designs and solutions that will revolutionize how customers use mobile devices."

Persistent memory storage enables the retention of data even after the device's battery runs out. In addition, the platform will support hard drives and USB storage devices, the company said.

In addition, Microsoft said the updated platform will also have enhanced security support, claiming it is now FIPS-140-2 compliant, which means it meets U.S. government security requirements. The update also includes updated mobile Office applications, including a fuller version of PowerPoint Mobile, according to the company. The platform also will include Windows Media Player 10.

The company said the updated platform also has interface refinements and will simplify one-handed operation, enabling manufacturers to design devices that will be easier to use without a stylus.

Overall, not everybody is impressed with the update.

"The latest release is more an evolution than a revolution," said Neil Mawston, associate directory of the global wireless practice for market research firm Strategy Analytics. "It's a baby step up the ladder instead of a seismic shift."

Variations of the Windows Mobile platform are aimed at various types of devices such as PDAs and smartphones. The release of the updated platform comes at a time of great flux in the mobile device market. Various market studies show Symbian's platform with a worldwide lead in terms of smartphones while a variety of vendors, including PalmSource, are throwing their weight to Linux. In addition, Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform also has shown strong growth in the last year.

The company did not initially say when devices using the new updated platform will be available from vendors.