Microsoft has announced today that smartphones with Windows Mobile 6.5 onboard will go on sale on the 6th of October, 16 days before Windows 7 is released worldwide.
Version 6.5 will be available in standard and professional versions and will be the direct replacement for Windows Mobile 6.1, which was itself a minor upgrade to Windows Mobile 6, launched back in February 2007.
Since then, two generation of iPhones have been launched and Microsoft appear to be struggling to release a Windows Mobile 7, codenamed Photon, which will appear next year.
Windows Mobile 6.5 will feature a number of user interface improvements with what Microsoft calls, the ability for users to "can change the look and feel of their phones with designer themes".
It has also been confirmed that WM6.5 will benefit from a new improved Internet Explorer Mobile browser built on top a new engine and with built-in Adobe Flash lite for "better rendering and completion of tasks".
WM6.5 also boosts business credentials thanks to built in Microsoft Office Mobile applications which includes Outlook Mobile as well as Windows Live.
New to Windows Mobile as a platform is Windows Marketplace For Mobile, Microsoft's answer to Apple's App Store where customers will be able to buy "approved and certified applications" with an "easy return policy" (now that's interesting, return policy on software).
As for an alternative to Apple's Mobileme, well, Microsoft also has a service for that too; My Phone will allow customers to "automatically back up and sync photos, music, contacts and text messages from their phone to the Web" which is a good idea except that it might not be free if network operators start charging for data.
In UK, all mobile phone operators excluding O2 and Three networks will have Windows Mobile 6.5 devices available at launch.
"A Windows phone gives people a single phone that works for their whole life, keeping them connected to the people and information they care most about by harnessing the power of the PC, phone and Web," said Todd Peters, corporate vice president of the Mobile Communications Marketing Group at Microsoft.