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SkyBox cracks open as Microsoft Mobile timetable leaks

All the integration you can eat

Some details of Microsoft's SkyBox service had started to emerge, along with a schedule for Windows Mobile 7 that precludes the online competitor to MobileMe waiting for the next full version of Windows Mobile.

The next version of Windows Mobile won't be here until 2010, leaving a makeover of version 6 - to be known as 6.5 - to integrate with the online services being launched later this month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The launch of SkyBox, and related services, has been common knowledge for a while, but ZDNet is now reporting that the service will be free at launch with a paid-for version coming in the summer. Initial versions will support online synchronisation of contacts and calendar, but version two will integrate device management through a web portal - allowing everything from the ringtone to the installed music files to be managed through a web portal.

It might seem strange to turn to a PC to configure the phone in your pocket, but that's what iPhone users have been doing for a while now, and iTunes has proved quite popular. Doing the same thing through a web portal will require heavy integration in the handset, so is likely to turn up with Windows Mobile 7 that is now expected some time in 2010.

That date comes from comments made by Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha during the quarterly-earnings call: "We believe in 2009 Android is more competitive... but in 2010 when Windows 7 will become available, we will then participate in a more focused way in Windows Mobile 7." That explains the company's exclusive focus on Android, as well as confirming we're not going to see Windows Mobile 7 this year.

Not that there's a huge requirement for a new version of Windows Mobile - just a massive overhaul of the user interface and bundled applications to fit the brave new world of finger navigation and mobile web browsing, which could come with version 6.5. We'll have to wait until Mobile World Congress to find out for sure. ®

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