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SkyBox: Microsoft's Answer to MobileMe?

Windows Mobile is the oft-forgotten prince of Smartphoneland, with millions of smartphone handsets carrying at least one version of the OS, sometimes behind the scenes. But to counter the rising threat from the iPhone and Android, it looks like when version 6.5 of the OS is unveiled soon it'll come with a new bunch of cloud-based services.

WinMo 6.5's debut is expected at Mobile World Congress next month. Microsoft is expected to simultaneously reveal three new cloud-based services as an alternative to its largely Exchange-based apps.

SkyBox is the biggest offering: It's a cloud-based data repository for all your contacts, calendar items, email and imagery. It'll sync over the air with your smartphone, and apparently also has inbuilt automatic system backup and restore functionality—though you'd better be on an unlimited data tarriff for that to make sense.

If Skybox sounds familiar, think of Apple's MobileMe: It's a cloud-based data repository for your email, images, calendar items and contacts that syncs over the air with your smarphone. Hmm.

Another service, SkyMarket, is a "mobile marketplace" for sharing and selling applications. And if that sounds like a Microsoft response to Apple's ridiculously successful App Store to you, I think you're right. At least it'll firm-up the task of finding, buying and installing a WinMo app on smartphones—something I've always found annoying.

Then there's SkyLine, which is apparently SkyBox adjusted to fit the needs of enterprise customers—it has Exchange support, custom domains and other business-targeted stuff.

It all sounds pretty groovy, but if you think about it it's just Microsoft coming late to a game they missed the start of, and there's nothing particularly revolutionary here. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the plan is that if these apps are properly cloud-based and web accessible, then you won't need a Windows Mobile smartphones—maybe you'll be able to use your BlackBerry or iPhone to update your info over the net.

[Neowin via Boy Genius Report]