Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) said on Tuesday it would offer full Web browsing for mobile phones this year, following the footsteps of Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone, which has won praise for the way it displays Web sites as they would appear on a computer.
Microsoft said at CTIA, the annual U.S. mobile show, that it will make Internet Explorer Mobile available to phone makers in the third quarter with the first phones to go on sale by year’s end.
Microsoft has been gaining ground with its operating system for smartphones with computer-like features such as e-mail, but it faces stiff competition from the likes of Apple, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) and Palm (NASDAQ: PALM).
Before the iPhone was launched last June with a combined phone, browser and music player, mobile phones mostly showed stripped-down versions of Internet sites as they were easier to view on tiny screens. Full graphic-heavy Web sites often take a long time to download and are hard to read.
Now other developers are following suit.
Microsoft also announced a new version of its mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.1, that would make it easier for users to navigate the feature menus in their phones.
The company has said it expects license sales of its mobile operating system to outpace smartphone market growth in the next few years. It expects the market to quadruple in size in three to four years to around 400 million handsets.