(Relaxnews) -

Microsoft Corp. launched the latest version of its mobile phone operating system (OS) and announced the availability of a large line up of "Windows Phones"  on October 6 marking what many hoped would be the release of a completely redesigned, enhanced mobile OS.

Instead, Microsoft offered up a mobile operating system that sports a few new features and a home screen with a face lift - but no major changes.

The operating system has been designed to appeal to users that need to use their phone in both the workplace and at home, combining business functions such as web browsing, mobile versions of Microsoft office and push email with social networking, live chat and multimedia functions. 

“We all want to connect quickly to the people and information that’s important to us from across our lives at work and at home,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who was in Paris for the worldwide launch of Windows Mobile 6.5. 

“A Windows phone lets people take their entire world of digital information, communications, applications and entertainment with them wherever they go.”

On the surface, Windows Mobile 6.5 has a few visually pleasing cosmetic updates as well as on board social networking integration, a streamlined web browser and a much more functional lock screen but underneath the new looks and tweaks Microsoft seems to be playing a catch-up game. 

Users will have to hope for a more thorough reworking of the operating system when Windows Mobile 7 arrives (the OS update is rumoured to arrive in 2010).

Windows Mobile 6.5 excels when it comes to mail synchronization and Exchange integration. The new OS enables users to have up to six different mail accounts and supports push notifications on Hotmail (for free).

There are also tweaks in operational speed and functionality allowing for slightly better phone performance. 

The new home screen provides consumers with a menu-based portal. From this screen users can accessing the most commonly utilised features such as email, SMS, Windows Live, web browsing and multimedia. There is also a redesigned start screen where users can place their most-used application icons for quick access.

The October 6 event was also used to launch My Phone, "a free service that helps people back up and manage photos, applications and other content from their phone or PC, as well as restore information in the event of a lost phone" and to announce the opening of Windows Marketplace for Mobile - an online store for mobile applications.

Microsoft plans to put their operating system on more than 30 new phones in over 20 countries before the end of the year with phone makers such as HTC, Samsung, LG and Toshiba incorporating the software on new handsets due out in the next months. Microsoft hopes the phones will appeal to a wide range of consumers with prices set to range from 9 euros to 129 euros in the European market.