We first saw Windows Mobile back in April 2000, with the launch of the Pocket PC mobile device. At the time the device ran a modified version of Windows CE 3.0, which included pocket versions of Office, Internet Explorer and Media Player.
I starting using Windows Mobile back in 2002 with the launch of the HTC Canary. Even though the user experience was far from good and the device would repeatedly crash when attempting to multi-task, it was still the most powerful and versatile smart phone on the market. As a result I invested over five years into Windows Mobile, periodically upgrading through the HTC range (HTC Tanager, HTC Typhoon, HTC Hurricane and finally HTC Vox). Although each new handset brought with it a faster processor and more memory, the Windows Mobile OS experience remained the same. It would occasionally get a refresh in design and the odd new feature, however overall there was a distinct lack of innovation and polish, especially when compared against Windows on the desktop.
In 2007 everything changed. Apple unveiled the iPhone and Windows Mobile suddenly looked like an embarrassment. Essentially Microsoft had thrown away a seven year advantage overnight and were made to look quite stupid.
Thankfully over the past two years, while the iPhone's market share and Apple's profits have soared, Microsoft have been secretly working away at Windows Mobile 7. Like the desktop equivalent, Windows Mobile 7 is being looked at as a fresh start, allowing Microsoft to shrug off the embarrassment of the past few years. Although very little information about the new product has leaked, insiders believe this will be a significant step forward for the platform and put Microsoft firmly back in the race for the best mobile Operating System.
On Monday 15th February 14:00 UK time all will be revealed. Steve Balmer is set to take the stage at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to show us what Microsoft has been working on. This event is certainly very important for anyone interested in the mobile technology and I can guarantee there will be significant interest from both Apple and Google.
Personally I don't expect Microsoft to revolutionise the mobile space. Instead I expect they will release a product that will sit somewhere between Android and the iPhone, allowing them to build upon the success of the Windows 7 desktop launch. In terms of features I would predict a new "Zune like" finger friendly multi-touch user interface, a new finger friendly browser, an AppStore, and finally tight integration with their Exchange, Xbox and Zune services.
Whatever the final result on Monday, one thing is for sure, you can never count out Microsoft. For a live feed of the event I suggest you head over to Engadget or Gizmodo. I will also do my best to provide post event coverage.