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Microsoft Hones Mobile Search, Services Strategy

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) this week rolled out several new and updated features in connection with an updated version of Live Search for Windows Mobile, continuing its efforts to strengthen its hand in the mobile device game.

The update provides a new way of organizing local information and Internet searches, dubbed "Collections." The feature is designed to aggregate frequent searches, making their results easier to access while on the road -- for instance, enabling a user to always look up nearby events.

In addition, the update also "provides deeper integration with Windows Mobile phones, user generated PC content, and Web search, and now offers weather forecasts," a spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

Microsoft's release of Live Search for Windows Mobile marks the company's second major announcement on the mobile device front this week. On Monday, Microsoft revealed that it would supply Windows Live services to one of its fiercest competitors in the smartphone arena -- Research in Motion (RIM).

Windows Live services for Windows Mobile, which includes the Windows Live Messenger instant messaging program and Windows Live Hotmail e-mail service -- but not Live Search -- were developed originally for the company's mobile device operating system.

Since then, the company has begun now working on making those services available on other phone systems, including ones from Nokia and, after Monday's announcement, RIM, maker of the omnipresent BlackBerry devices.

Through that agreement, Microsoft will provide a version of its Windows Live services to run on BlackBerry devices. Services for BlackBerry devices are scheduled for summer release.

The efforts come as an indication of the burgeoning importance of mobile search and services. A recent report from Juniper Research found that by 2013, about 30 percent of the expected 4.2 billion owners of wireless devices will depend on mobile device searches to find and locate local digital information.

Yahoo also is taking steps to improve and broaden the scope of its own mobile search, striking a bevy of deals with wireless carriers and introducing ease-of-use features like speech recognition.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's update to Live Search for Windows Mobile introduces what the company views as a similarly important feature for helping users perform searches.

"With Collections, I'm able to put together a list of my most common searches, so that I can quickly and easily access them on the go," Derek Snyder, product manager for Windows Mobile, said during a demo at CTIA Wireless 2008 in April.

Snyder made his presentation during a keynote speech by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division.

"No matter where I am, whether I'm in Seattle or Las Vegas, I can initiate this search, find all of the music events going on in the area, and then throw them all up on a map," Snyder said during his presentation.

Collections also extend to content on the Web generated by other users, including information from Virtual Earth.

Live Search for Windows Mobile also adds a "map a contact" feature that displays a map and directions to any contacts in the user's contacts list. Enhancements to Web search include the ability to launch searches directly from the client, according to the spokesperson. Additionally, a new weather report feature includes four-day forecasts.

The latest release of Live Search for Windows Mobile is being made available on Microsoft's site.