WASHINGTON, US - Microsoft, seeking to tap into the rapidly growing smartphone market, announced on Tuesday that new cellphones coming in October will feature an upgraded mobile operating system.
The Redmond, Washington-based software giant said mobile phones from its handset partners hitting stores on October 6 will be the first to feature Windows Mobile 6.5, the latest version of its mobile phone software.
The new phones, to be branded as "Windows Phones," will feature a redesigned Web browser and a free service called "My Phone," which allows users to back up contacts, messages and photos on a personal computer or the Internet.
Microsoft also announced plans to launch an online applications store -- Windows Marketplace for Mobile -- like Apple's popular App Store for the iPhone or Research in Motion's recently unveiled Blackberry App World.
It said a "wide variety" of applications will be available for the devices to be offered by hardware manufacturers in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.
Other features include email using Microsoft Office Outlook Mobile and Microsoft Office Mobile, which allows users to open and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from their phone.
Microsoft's share of the market for smartphone operating systems fell to nine percent in the second quarter from 12 percent a year ago, according to research firm Gartner.
Nokia's Symbian is the leader with a 51 percent share of the market according to Gartner, while RIM commands around 21 percent and Apple has increased its share to 13.3 percent from 2.8 percent a year ago.
Google's open-source Android mobile phone software is another new entry in the operating system space and the Internet giant has carved out a two percent market share.
While worldwide mobile phone sales fell 6.1 percent in the second quarter, smartphone sales increased by 27 percent in the period to 40.9 million units, according to Gartner.
Stephanie Ferguson, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Mobile unit, said in a blog post that the software for new smartphones emphasized "productivity."
"Of the people we talked to, 74 percent listed productivity as the top feature they value in their smartphone," she wrote.
"We took this feedback to heart, making the user interface more touch friendly and improving notifications and updates from email, text and calendar items," Ferguson said.
"We also included the latest Internet Explorer Mobile browser and added free services like My Phone to help protect data in the event of a lost phone."
Microsoft identified its partners in North America as mobile operators AT&T, Bell Mobility, Sprint, TELUS and Verizon Wireless, and phone manufacturers HP, HTC Corp., LG Electronics, Samsung and Toshiba Corp.
In Europe, its partners are mobile operators Orange, Deutsche Telekom AG and Vodafone Group Plc and phone manufacturers Acer, HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba.
Microsoft said that in Latin America its partners are mobile operator TIM Brazil and phone manufacturers HTC, LG Electronics and Samsung.
In Asia-Pacific, its partners are mobile operators NTT DOCOMO Inc., SOFTBANK Mobile Corp., SK Telecom, Telstra and WILLCOM Inc. and phone manufacturers Acer Inc., HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba.