Bill Gates has announced the release of Microsoft's latest platform for mobiles, pdas and portable devices. Windows Mobile 5.0 is the next stage in Microsoft's mobile plan and promises to provide more flexibility to customize devices; productivity enhancements that include updated Microsoft Office software and persistent memory storage for more efficient data management; and a multimedia experience with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile and support for hard drives.

"In the past five years, there's been a profound shift in the kind of data and services people access on their mobile devices -- from multimedia to business applications," Gates said. "Windows Mobile 5.0 enables our industry partners to develop exciting new hardware designs and solutions that will revolutionize how customers use mobile devices."

Microsoft is hoping that enhancements in Windows Mobile 5.0 will provide device-makers and mobile operators with more options to differentiate themselves from competitors and ultimately provide end users with a wider range of converged devices.

In addition it will bring some welcome updates, including support for mini hard drives, persistent memory storage and support for a typewriter-style (QWERTY…) keyboard.

Windows Mobile 5.0 will offer network support for higher-bandwidth 3G networks, Wi-Fi for the Smartphone platform and improvements to existing Bluetooth support.

The release also includes Microsoft Office software for Windows Mobile. Users will be able to view and create charts in Excel Mobile, and edit documents with graphics using Word Mobile while maintaining document formatting with files created on a PC. A new PowerPoint Mobile application has been included for Pocket PC, giving road warriors the ability to view and rehearse presentations.

Multimedia fans will hopefully be won over by the Windows Media Player 10 Mobile included in the box and the updated player also enables synchronization of users' playlists, album art and song ratings.