Windows Mobile 6.5: Due October, pretty much as is. Windows Mobile 7: Coming at the end of next year. Both: On sale at the same time, marketed in a bizarre two-tiered way. If this rumour isn't false, it should be.
Microsoft is expected to officially launch Windows Mobile 6.5 on October 1, 2009 and add an upgrade version with a touch interface in February 2010, the sources indicated citing Microsoft roadmap.
Despite being the most predictable part of the story, this is the most disturbing—it'll be a year from now before Microsoft has a true competitor for webOS, iPhone OS or Android. Lame, but totally possible. Then there's that "upgrade version"—could that be Cashmere? Anyhoo, this is when the story goes from unfortunate to bizarre:
[A]dual-platform strategy will allow Microsoft to compete with Android-based platform using Windows Mobile 6.5 and also compete with iPhones leveraging Windows Mobile 7, the sources asserted.
Since Windows Mobile 7 is meant to be a fairly clean break from the ancient 5.x and 6.x legacy, you'd expect it to simply step aside for the new guy. The plan, though, is apparently to leave 6.5 in a sort of Palm OS deadzone, sold on less desirable hardware than the company's flagship OS, and at a lower cost. The premise is bizarre, since Windows Mobile 6.5 can't compete with Android now, much less whatever Android looks like in 2010.
Ina at CNET is tentatively optimistic about this plan, but I see a failure of imagination: At this rate, 6.5 will be a pathetic orphan, and 7? One human year equals about 20 mobile phone years, so this thing had better be pretty great.