WinMo 6.5 will hit in October of this year, alongside a whole bucketload of new smartphones built around Microsoft's latest stab at the mobile market. But 6.5 isn't going to be Redmond's only attempt to regain their lost share of the smartphone market. If Ars Technica is right, WinMo 7.0 is in beta testing right now, and could be headed to stores sooner than you think.
This rumor rests on Hand Huang's Linkedln profile, in which he describes himself as a Chinese Senior Engineer at Motorola and states having experience with "Windows Mobile 7.0 (Beta)". Everything else in Huang's profile seems to check out, and UX Evangelist found more than a few other references to Windows Mobile 7.0 on Linkedln.
Current rumors have April of 2010 placed as the month for 7.0 to hit RTM. The OS isn't expected to see a commercial release until November of 2009. WinMo 6.5 is also looking at an update in February of 2010, according to Ars. This updated version of 6.5 will go head-to-head with Android, while WinMo 7.0 will be pitted against the iPhone OS.
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In my opinion, Microsoft is heading for heartbreak with these latest moves. Even if 6.5 turns out to be as solid of an OS as Android, Google's OS still has the benefit of being free for manufacturers. Meanwhile, Windows 7 will be competing with the most successful smartphone operating system in the world. It's not an impossible task, but I still don't give Microsoft very good odds of success.