Responding to increasing pressure from other mobile phone platforms, Microsoft has announced updated versions of Windows Mobile and Internet Explorer Mobile and also make its new enterprise device management software available to all medium-size and large businesses.
The updated IE Mobile browser will support Adobe Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight so that Windows Mobile users will be able to view multimedia applications in their browsers. Microsoft had previously announced that it would support Flash and Silverlight in Windows Mobile but had declined to say when the capabilities would become available.
The new IE Mobile will be available to mobile phone makers in the third quarter, with phones using the browser hitting the market by the end of the year, Microsoft said.
The browser update could help Microsoft to compete better with Apple's iPhone, which includes an advanced browser. iPhone owners view more web pages on phones than those with less capable browsers, according to research done by Julie Ask, an analyst at Jupiter Research.
Microsoft planned to introduce the browser at the CTIA conference in Las Vegas. It also introduced an updated version of Windows Mobile, version 6.1. The update includes a new zoom capability that lets users view an entire web page or picture and zoom in up on a portion of a page.
It also features a new Getting Started Center aimed at making it easier to set up email, Bluetooth peripherals and WiFi on the phones. New notifications on the home page of the phone of missed calls, upcoming appointments and new messages will allow users to see such updated information at a glance, Microsoft said.
Phones running Windows Mobile 6.1 could become available to end users as early as the second quarter, Microsoft said.
Windows Mobile 6.1 will also support System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, which is now available for any business. Microsoft introduced Mobile Device Manager 2008 in October last year but at the time it was available only to a limited number of testers.
Mobile Device Manager is server software that enterprises can use to remotely manage and secure Windows Mobile phones much the same way that they may do for laptops.
Microsoft also planned to announce the Microsoft Mobile Services Plan, an offering from mobile operators for enterprises that includes mobile management services. Microsoft expected to announce operators that will offer the plan on Tuesday.
In addition to the new software products, Microsoft also planned to introduce some new mobile search features at CTIA. Starting in the next few months, users will be able to download a new version of Live Search for Windows Mobile. The updated software will let users quickly view the address of a contact in their address book on a map and get directions to the location. Users will also be able to do a Web search directly from the software client.
Microsoft also expects to soon begin offering a new version of Live Search for BlackBerry that lets users speak voice commands in order to search for businesses and restaurants and get turn by turn driving directions. Results are displayed on a map.