Phones running Microsoft's new Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system will hit the market in exactly five weeks, according to a recent press release. The October 6 launch will mark the debut of the new "Windows Phone" brand, along with the new My Phone synchronization service and the Windows Marketplace for Mobile, Microsoft's attempt to rival Apple's App Store for the iPhone.

The company has not specified which handsets will be available on launch date, but said HP, HTC, LG Electronics, Samsung, and Toshiba are all committed to the OS. The first phone offerings in the U.S. will be on carriers AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, as well as Bell Mobility and TELUS. Devices will also debut on Orange, Deutsche Telekom AG and Vodafone in Europe; and several other carriers in Asia Pacific and Latin America.

With everyone trying to duplicate the iPhone's experience these days, it's easy to forget Windows Mobile is still the third-most used system behind Symbian and RIM's BlackBerry platform. That said, they are facing increased pressure from Apple's iPhone, Google's Android, and Palm's webOS; and it seems to me that this relatively minor update which touts document editing with Windows Office Mobile and a "redesigned Internet Explorer Mobile browser" among its selling points won't do much to stop the market share bleeding.

The new version also improves the user interface to make it finger-friendly, includes improved notifications and updates from e-mail, text and calendar, as well as an App Store-like hub for software downloads -- although Microsoft hasn't confirmed how many apps will be available for download at launch.