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Windows Mobile looks old and tired compared to some of the newer mobile operating systems on the market like Apple’s iPhone OS, Google’s Android and soon the WebOS running on the Palm Pre. Microsoft needs to figure out how to stay relevant, and it’s likely to take its first shot shortly with the unveiling of Windows Mobile 6.5 at the Mobile World Conference (MWC). But when will consumers actually see the new OS?

Noting that Microsoft doesn’t believe in timetables for product launches, All About Microsoft’s Mary-Jo Foley has some sources who have given her just that. Here’s the rundown:

* Windows Mobile 6.5 RTM (release to manufacturing): April 2009
* First Windows Mobile 6.5 devices from cell phone makers: September 2009

September? That’s not good news for Microsoft. Android will be on several more phones by then (likely dozens), the Palm Pre will be out, and who knows, Apple may even have a new version of the iPhone by then. Windows Mobile 6.5 will undoubtedly be an improvement over current Windows Mobile (at least in most respects, though Internet Explorer still looks awful). But it’s really just a partial upgrade until Windows Mobile 7 is ready to go (hence the whole “6.5” thing).

So if users have to wait until September for this stop-gap, how long will the wait be for Windows Mobile 7? Well, as we’ve heard previously, try 2010. Foley has the timeline for that as well:

* Windows Mobile 7.0 release to testers: November 2009
* First Windows Mobile 7.0 devices from cell phone makers: April 2010

That’s nearly mid-year 2010. Given Apple’s iPhone life-cycle, we could be close to a fourth generation iPhone by then, and who knows what Palm and Google will be doing.

Microsoft looks poised to release some interesting mobile services at WMC like a new App Store that may be called “SkyMarket” and a MobileMe syncing-competitor called SkyBox. But without one of these sleeker mobile operating systems to run them, will they be enough to attract new people to Windows Mobile phones? Unlikely. We just kicked off 2009, but 2010 can’t come soon enough for Microsoft.

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