Microsoft's event is located in the Plaza Catalunya across the street from the expo center proper, and the world's WinMo faithful (well, okay, the world's technology press) have started to gather inside in preparation for the 3PM Central European Time extravaganza.
4:01PM Aww, no more questions... it was just getting good! That's a wrap!
4:00PM Ballmer says "the fact that this is named 6.5 implies there's a 7 in the future. We wouldn't necessarily say it'll launch in the same time frame as Windows 7."
3:59PM Uh oh, a question about Windows Mobile 7, and whether it's tied into Windows 7!
3:59PM In reference to some My Phone questions: the service will be backward-compatible with 6.1, and no clients for other mobile platforms are used (we know you're heartbroken, S60 users).
3:57PM Here's a tidbit: all Windows Mobile 6.5 devices will have a dedicated Windows button.
3:55PM The previous question mentioned that manufacturers eventually broke down and started pre-installing Opera as a workaround for IE's jankiness, and that ended up spurring Ballmer into spinning that into a positive: WinMo gives its partners "flexibility" to do as they like. Nice recovery!
3:54PM A question from the audience: why did it take so long for this improved version of IE Mobile to happen? Lees' answer is that the improved rendering engine actually shipped in 6.1, and the new UI ships in 6.5.
3:51PM Ballmer's back for a wrap-up, and now it's Q&A time.
3:50PM A bunch of feel-good stuff here -- basically, Orange is stoked about launching devices running Windows Mobile 6.5. Woohoo!
3:48PM Word to the wise: Ballmer likes jogging in Paris and skiing in Germany, so says Maitre.
3:47PM Orange's Yves Maitre, senior VP of devices, takes the stage.
3:46PM Lees is back, and now the attention is on carrier Orange.
3:45PM Ahn says that there'll be 50 -- yes, FIFTY -- Windows Mobile handsets from LG through 2012. Holy cow!
3:44PM LG's CEO, Dr. Skott Ahn, is now on stage!
3:43PM The BIG news from LG here is that Windows Mobile will be their "primary" smartphone operating system, and both companies have committed to dropping serious R&D dollars into making that happen.
3:43PM The mic goes back to Andy Lees, who is announcing a new "strategic partnership" with LG (this isn't a first for these guys -- they've signed memorandums of understanding in the past).
3:42PM Chou just announced -- well, he already mentioned it at the HTC briefing, but we think this is the official unveiling -- that customers of the Touch Pro2 and Touch Diamond2 will get 6.5 upgrades for free. Thank goodness!
3:40PM "We look for this partnership to continue for many years to come." -- you heard it, folks, straight from Chou's mouth. HTC ain't going nowhere!
3:39PM He seems genuinely enthused about HTC's ongoing relationship with Microsoft. We're still a little shocked that there's been nary a mention of Android out of these guys at the show.
3:38PM HTC's Peter Chou is taking the stage.
3:37PM Lees is calling out HTC, LG, and Orange specifically as being super-awesome partners.
3:35PM The video Lees is now showing is basically a who's-who of partner CEOs saying how they love their own products. Awesome.
3:34PM Peter Chou is on video saying "I love my HTC Windows Mobile phone very much." Really, Peter, you don't say?
3:33PM 6.5 demo's done, and now Lees is pimping the gargantuan WinMo ecosystem of carriers and manufacturers. Kinda funny that Palm's listed here -- yes, they're part of the ecosystem, but for how long?
3:31PM He runs through all of the synchronized data screens in My Phone: contacts, calendars, tasks, text messages, photos, videos, music, and documents. That more or less covers it -- but you can't do a three-way sync between My Phone and Exchange ActiveSync for calendars, contacts, and tasks. Not to say you'd want to do that anyway.
3:30PM My Phone's getting demoed now. The web interface is utterly plain-vanilla, but then again, the magic is in the syncing over the air, not so much how you're seeing it from your PC. One thing at a time.
3:28PM The new virtual keyboard looks really nice! Cute shading to give a subtle 3D effect, usably sized, and functional.
3:27PM Windows Live features are being demoed -- audio clips being sent between Messenger on the phone and Messenger on the PC. They're also showing a three-way IM conversation including someone on an Xbox, which is pretty cool, although it speaks more to Xbox's integration than Windows Mobile's.
3:26PM Now they're comparing a Windows phone loading iceandorange.com to a Windows PC. Yep, looks basically the same!
3:25PM 6.5's version of IE Mobile is now on display. Swiping works well -- the scrolling continues when you take your finger off the screen, just like you'd want and expect. You get a "bird's eye view" of the page when you're zoomed in (think S60's browser) and rendering looks perfect -- although to be fair, they're rendering msn.com. Cheating!
3:24PM Honeycomb menu is up now, which makes icons for apps super easy to press; we're still not convinced it's easier than a rectangular grid, but it is what it is. Motion is pretty fluid when scrolling, but it looks like it could be a smidge smoother.
3:23PM We notice that he still needs to "pinpoint" his finger a little bit to clear windows using the same X box in the upper right hand corner as in previous releases. Why is that still there, and why does it look and work the same?
3:21PM Now, the home screen. This is a definite improvement over 6.1 -- very finger friendly. Left and right swipes move between calendar events, for example.
3:20PM Now we're seeing a LIVE demo -- how fancy is that? The idea behind the lock screen is that there's a notification box for each type of notification -- email, text messages, voicemails, and so on -- and dragging the appropriate notification with your finger will take you straight to it when the phone unlocks.
3:19PM Windows Mobile 6.5 is being shown off in the video. It's a glossed-up production demonstrating the honeycomb menu, the lock screen, and contact management.
3:18PM Went through Live's successes in the marketplace, suggesting those successes will translate into Microsoft's new mobile strategy. Video time!
3:16PM "This is the beginning of a new strategy."
3:15PM Steve is turning the stage over to Andy Lees to talk about the announcements in depth.
3:15PM Third announcement is Windows Marketplace for Windows phones. Steve's pimping the fact that there are over 20,000 apps that run on Windows Mobile, and he's promising new and better tools for developers going forward.
3:14PM Next announcement is My Phone -- no surprises here. Cloud backup for Windows Mobile devices, accessed via the web.
3:13PM "We're also improving the browsing experience to make it more similar to that on a PC."
3:13PM He just pulled the trigger on 6.5! Available "later this year," which we've already heard would likely be Q4.
3:13PM "Today, we're announcing the first generation of what we're calling Windows phones. We have three big announcements in conjunction with that."
3:11PM "We've got to make it a Windows phone. A Windows phone has to be your phone -- because a Windows phone is unique to you. Windows phones have to come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so an individual can pick the size that's right for them."
3:10PM "We need to take our Windows Mobile business to another level. The time has come to bring the full Windows experience to mobile phones." Isn't that what you've been trying to do for years, though?
3:09PM "Today we have a very strong Windows Mobile ecosystem." Agreed, Steve, but you need to pull out the big guns to keep that ecosystem stable.
3:09PM "Our goal is to galvanize an industry by creating a platform for innovation."
3:08PM "Smartphones will increase to over the 50 percent of market." Steve says that people want a single phone that's connected to every part of a person's life -- not just home, not just work.
3:05PM Referring to the economy: "I think what we're going through is more of a fundamental economic reset, as more economies around the world reestablish themselves and return to growth."
3:04PM Ballmer's on stage!
3:04PM "Start Your Windows Phones" just flashed on the screen. Yep, Windows phones -- funk that Windows Mobile noise.
3:03PM And here we go again! Looks like this is the real deal this time.
3:00PM Annnnnd, we're back to the original "Start Windows" logo on the projection. We guess that was the presentation... like, before the presentation. No devices, software, or wanton awesomeness yet.
2:59PM Ooh, "Start blogging" just flashed on the screen. Don't mind if we do!
2:57PM "Start experiencing... start sharing... start blushing... start joining..." -- we see a theme here.
2:56PM Video starting... here we go!
2:55PM "The presentation will begin in five minutes."
2:54PM We're seated. No shortage of important-looking Microsoft gals and dudes in suits up at the front of the room.
2:49PM We're being let in!