Microsoft is releasing a new application for delivering "snippets" of data to Windows Mobile devices, one of several announcements planned for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday.
Microsoft plans to announce that it will offer software for Windows Mobile users based on MSN Direct, a service it developed to deliver data snippets to watches. The new application displays small bits of information like weather, stocks and news on the home screen of the phone. "This is an innovative take on how to get information in a glanceable way on handsets," said Brian Arbogast, vice president of mobile services at Microsoft.
Windows Mobile users can download the application, which will initially be offered as a beta.
Microsoft and its competitors Yahoo and Google are jockeying for lead position in the mobile market. Each is working to draw mobile users to their services in hopes of ultimately establishing a revenue stream from mobile advertising. So far, the market is relatively open.
Microsoft also said it is offering a new software development kit that will give developers access to additional Microsoft mobile services protocols. With the new tools, Microsoft's software vendor partners will be able to build richer clients that access additional Windows Live for mobile capabilities. For example, a developer could make an application that lets a user click to record a voice clip and send it to an MSN Messenger buddy, even if the sender is using a Windows Mobile phone and the recipient has a Nokia S60 phone.
"These are rich and fun and engaging features in Messenger that we had on some of our top-end platforms that are now opened up through this protocol," said Arbogast.
Microsoft also introduced a new program, Windows Live @mobile, aimed at making it easier for operators to quickly begin offering Windows Live and MSN mobile services across their device portfolios.
While Windows Mobile has been seen primarily as a product for business users, Microsoft is increasingly trying to push it into the consumer market. "This is about us really extending our focus to be, instead of predominantly on the work part of life, to be about delivering phones for your entire life," said Arbogast.
Microsoft also recently hired a new marketing executive tasked with positioning Windows Mobile to appeal more to consumers.
Still, Microsoft isn't shifting away from its business customer focus. It is stepping up its efforts to sell mobile products to small businesses. Through a new partnership, Brightstar and TechData will sell Windows Mobile phones to small and medium businesses in Europe. The companies will offer a portfolio of products and services to customers, including servers, devices, services and support.
In the U.S., Microsoft said that Cbeyond, a provider of communications services for small businesses, will offer a new hosted Exchange e-mail service that supports mobile devices for small and medium businesses.