Powerful Smartphones Bound for Mobile World Congress

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Windows Mobile 7 and the Zune Phone--Finally?
This concept of a Microsoft Pink phone is from Zunescene.com, a Web site dedicated to the Zune device.

With Android's growing popularity and the upcoming iPhone OS 4.0 launch this summer, it is highly likely that we'll finally see the release of Windows Mobile 7. One intriguing rumor: Microsoft will release two versions of WinMo 7: business and media editions. The business edition will supposedly have live document collaboration and be built around Microsoft Office. The media version will purportedly support high-definition video, have social media integration, and feature Mediaroom 2.0 with live TV streaming. The OS is also rumored to have a Zune-like media player that will replace the dull-as-dirt Windows Mobile media player.

Speaking of the Zune, could we possibly see a Zune Phone at the show? Rumors of a Microsoft-branded phone with Zune HD-like hardware have been circulating for a while now. If Windows Mobile 7 does launch, wouldn't it make sense for Microsoft to release a flagship phone running that operating system? On the other hand, this rumor has been so long in the making that it is really hard to predict whether such a phone will indeed roll out.

Samsung's First Bada Phone

Samsung announced its Bada mobile platform back in December, but we have yet to see any phones running it. The rumor circuit says Samsung will unveil a phone that not only runs the Bada OS, but has a touchscreen with a new display technology called Super AMOLED, which is reported to be five times clearer than regular AMOLED and to offer 20 percent better visibility when used outdoors. AMOLED displays tend to completely fade in direct sunlight, so I'm eager to see how much the new Super AMOLED improves this issue.

Back to Bada: Not a whole lot is known about Samsung's smartphone platform other than the fact that it promises to bring apps to inexpensive smartphones. Samsung says Bada means a "smartphone for everyone." Given its stated goal, Samsung is sure to release a slew of developer tools alongside the phone launch to get the OS off the ground.

No Nokia, But More Maemo?

Nokia won't be at the MWC, but that doesn't mean the company won't be making any announcements. I'm hoping to see more phones running Nokia's Linux-based Maemo platform. The Nokia N900, the first Maemo phone, delivered fast performance and excellent Web browsing, but the interface needed some refining. Perhaps it is wishful thinking, but I'd like to see at least one more Maemo phone--or at least some updates to the platform--at MWC.

LG's Snapdragon Smartphone

LG will likely announce a slew of touchscreen smartphones and feature phones, but the handset I'm most excited about is the Arena Max (also known as the LU9400). The rumors credit this super phone with having a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (like the Nexus One), a 5-megapixel camera, and a 3.5-inch touchscreen, plus support for Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth. Does this mean that Snapdragon processors will become the norm for all smartphones? One can only hope.

webOS Phones Will Finally Get Video Capture

Because Palm just announced the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus last month at CES, it is doubtful we will see any more webOS handset announcements at MWC. However, according to Engadget, WebOS 1.4 will be rolled out to all Pre, Pre Plus, Pixi, and Pixi Plus owners next Monday. WebOS 4.1 adds a touch-friendly video capture and editing app, calendar and messaging enhancements, and some tweaks to battery life and usability. It is also possible that Palm will announce some new European carrier partners or perhaps GSM versions of the Pre and Pixi Plus.

Adobe Flash Player Launch on Android and webOS

Palm Pre and Pre Plus owners may also get Adobe Flash Player 10.1 next week (sorry, Pixi and Pixi owners--no Flash for you). According to Adobe's corporate blog, the company will be demoing Flash Player 10.1 on WebOS and Android devices at the show. It is likely that they will also be announcing a date for availability of the player on both platforms. Flash Player 10.1 enables all Adobe Flash content to be accessible on smartphones. This means that you'll be able to play Flash-based games and view Flash-based videos and Web sites. And yes, that includes Hulu.

Check back next week for up-to-the-minute blogs, stories, photos, and video from the world's largest mobile electronics show.

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