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Microsoft and Palm today separately advanced web sites designed for developers to post and sell (or give away) applications for their respective mobile platforms, playing catch-up with Apple, whose App Store celebrated its one-year anniversary in July. Redmond also unveiled a series of new phones this week based on Windows Mobile 6.5, its latest version.

Microsoft's new site, dubbed Windows Marketing for Mobile, includes a bare-bones landing page from which you can view your application purchase history or visit the user forum or developer community. At launch, Microsoft claimed to offer 246 mobile applications, and 753 independent software developers and vendors building more. Popular mobile applications available now include Facebook, MySpace, Netflix, Twikini, WunderRadio and ZAGAT, the company said.

But don't bother going there now to shop. You can only buy stuff from a device running Windows Mobile 6.5, which was first available on a phone just yesterday. DOH! Not only does Microsoft shut out 99.9 percent of current its user base, but also fails to address an obvious usage pattern--buying something through a PC browser (where it's faster and easier than through a handheld device) and then deploying it to the device. Fortunately, if you're a user of Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 and want to buy apps online, there's an app for that.

As limited as Microsoft's site is, at least it's a site. That's more than Palm can claim. The company's on-again, off-again App Catalog as of today is apparently off again. Under development since July, the latest "official" launch date was supposed to have been Sept. 24. The company today announced that its e-commerce beta program went live today, and that "[d]evelopers selected to participate in the beta program have the opportunity to make their applications, both free and paid, available to consumers." Developers have been submitting applications since August.

Also today, the company announced that the Palm developer program would include webOS in December. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I seem to recall a day when Palm's developer programs would precede[/] the device, or at least accompany it. Now, there's an "unofficial" Palm App Catalog web site that keeps track of the official one. This cannot portend good things for Palm, which should read and heed the Palm Pre tag line: "Thinking Ahead is a Beautiful Thing."

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