Microsoft launches new ‘Windows Embedded Handheld’ mini-mobile OS

With its Windows Mobile market share falling like a stone in the face of the iPhone Android and BlackBerry devices and Windows Phone 7 still six months away from debut you’d think the last thing that Microsoft needs is another mobile OS.

But you’d be wrong or at least you wouldn’t be Steve Ballmer. The Microsoft CEO has revealed plans for a second-string mobile operating system named Windows Embedded Handheld.

This will be a modular pared-down version of the company’s mobile operating system in the same way that Windows Embedded Standard 7 takes the axe to the desktop OS.

Windows Embedded Handheld (we’re sure that Redmond’s marketing department was quick to advise against calling it Microsoft Embedded Handheld or ‘meh’ for short) will be geared for commercial devices needing an embedded OS but will also appear on bespoke enterprise devices such as made-for-courier smartphones with barcode scanners and digital signature capture screens.

The first edition of WEH will be made available to Microsoft’s hardware partners “in the next six months” Ballmer promised and would be “based on Windows Mobile 6.5 technologies”.

“In the second half of 2011 we will release a version of Windows Embedded Handheld based on Windows Phone 7 technology.”