Microsoft's Mobile Ambitions Leak?

With BlackBerry Application Storefront rounding into shape, the App Store selling like gangbusters, and the Android Market about to get paid apps, questions still remain
With BlackBerry Application Storefront rounding into shape, the App Store selling like gangbusters, and the Android Market about to get paid apps, questions still remain on what Microsoft will do for Windows Mobile. A report from Neowin said Microsoft will fully flesh out its mobile strategy next month, and it includes an App Store and MobileMe competitor.According to the report, CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote at Mobile World Congress next month will be full of big news.

"SkyBox" is a service for users to sync a phones information with the web. Microsoft will be offering automatic backup and restore services, access and management of phone data and provide easy communication and sharing with others. The service will also allow syncing of contacts, email/SMS, calendar items and pictures into the cloud, similar to Apple's MobileMe. The difference from Apple's offering is Microsoft could be set to offer this out to non Windows Mobile devices.

"SkyLine" will be aimed at small businesses. Offering similar functionality to SkyBox, businesses will be able to setup their phones with Microsoft's Exchange hosting with their own domain names.

"SkyMarket" was originally discovered in September 2008 when Microsoft advertised several external job positions. SkyMarket is the codename for Microsoft's mobile marketplace, a competitor to Apple's AppStore and RIM's Blackberry application center. This service will only be available on Windows Mobile devices and will showcase the 1000s of Windows Mobile applications available today.

The SkyMarket idea isn't a shocker, as we've already seen the beginning phases of this. Additionally, there are a ton of incredible Windows Mobile applications out there, but it's a bit disjointed. Having an aggregated on-deck market where users can search, buy, download, and install applications is a no brainer that goes right along with the latest trends.

I think the interesting revelation will be if we see the SkyBox announcement. With its Live Mesh and Azure announcements, it's clear that the company's future will lie in the cloud and with wireless synching of multiple devices. Smartphones and mobile handsets would be the most tantalizing options for a cloud-syncing device of course. But I think the MobileMe fiasco shows that this can be pretty darn hard to do, and Microsoft needs to be sure they can handle the service with very, very little downtime and absolutely no data loss. The last thing they need (particularly in the mobile space) is Vista-style failure, or the stigma of a failure.

There's no word on pricing, but I hope for about $25 a year with 10 GB of storage. This could be doable, and making the service available to non-Windows Mobile phones would be very appealing. Obviously the small business version would be priced higher and include larger quantities of storage. These syncing services could be crucial as we all get more mobile, but it's going to have to be rock solid and well-priced.

Additionally, we should finally get some ideas about what Windows Mobile 6.5 will look like and include. It's not confirmed, but this update will probably include the latest mobile Internet Explorer, which has full Flash support. I'd imagine it would have other improvements as well, particularly for touch-screen smartphones. I doubt we'll see a major revamp of the user interface until Windows Mobile 7 pops out, but got a hold of some leaked concept shots from Microsoft that could signal we're in store for a much prettier UI soon.

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