Microsoft's Mobile World Congress announcements go a lot further than a new operating system. Thanks to the iPhone App Store and the Android Marketplace, the mobile experience is as much about the ecosystem as the handsets, and the tools that you get to help you manage and protect the information on your phone.
Microsoft isn't just gunning for the App Store which Nokia has also countered today; it has the Mobile Me synchronisation service in its sights and it was no surprise to learn that Microsoft is launching similar services, in the shape of the Windows Phone Marketplace and My Phone.
Both services will be available from this week for Windows Mobile 6 and above.
Marketplace: Promoting what's out there
Microsoft's Windows Marketplace used to be a site where you could find software for your PC (there's now the Microsoft Store and the Vista Compatibility site). Marketplace for Mobile is the equivalent for your phone, a one-stop shop for finding and downloading free and commercial software – just like Apple's App Store.
Alfredo Patron, Microsoft's Director of EMEA Mobility Marketing, told us that there are "20,000 Windows Mobile applications out there – but we don't do a very good job of promoting them." Marketplace for Mobile is intended to change that.
Marketplace for Mobile is a Web-based store, with a client application on your phone. You sign up on the web with your credit card and then download apps onto your PC – or straight onto your phone.
Applications are arranged in categories and you can see featured apps and new releases or search for something specific, and you'll be able to see the costs, ratings and description – and, unlike Android, the exact number of downloads – before you start a download.
Patron adds that Microsoft will manage the Marketplace, but not for conflict of interest. "We'll certify the applications that are there so you don't get crappy things". Microsoft also hasn't forgotten just how often people change phones, "The other thing is apps can be transferred to other devices; it's not specific to the device. You as an individual own the licence independent of the device. "