The clue to the launch is a job advertisement spotted by blogger Long Zheng. Microsoft is looking for a senior product manager who would oversee the marketing and development for the service, intended to complement the eventual release of the next mobile OS, Windows Mobile 7.
Third-party developers have built more than 15,000 applications for Windows Mobile, but the applications are sold through a multitude of vendors on different Web sites.
The advertisement would suggest that Microsoft is aiming for something closer to Apple's one-stop shop approach with its iTunes Store, which also sells applications for the iPhone. Those applications, which now number more than 1,000, are vetted by Apple and are not sold elsewhere.
One of the goals listed in Microsoft's ad for the position is making "the Windows Mobile marketplace 'the place to be' for developers wishing to distribute and monetize their Windows Mobile applications."
Microsoft has already taken a shot at loosely roping its applications under one online roof with its Windows Mobile Catalog.
But the site is a facade, with links leading to vendors such as Pocketland, Handango and MobiHand which handle the transaction and downloads. By contrast, Apple's applications can be purchased and downloaded on its iPhone wirelessly.