Article updated and corrected on January 22, 2008 at 3:10 pm PST.
Microsoft and Zumobi, a content distribution platform for mobile phones, announced on Tuesday a partnership that will preload Zumobi (download here) on select Windows Mobile phones.
Zumobi's downloadable app (available now for Windows Mobile 5 and 6) offers an interface of 16 tiles to help users access key content quickly. Each tile is a widget that's entirely programmed by developers and partners--like Amazon.com, Flickr, and AP Sports--and which is subject to advertising banners. Zumobi's big innovation is the navigation that zooms into tiles by quadrant and then by tile to access the widget. There are some weaknesses to this approach, noted in my initial hands-on review, though Zumobi's interface is indeed as "lush" as the marketing claims.
John SanGiovanni, Zumobi's co-founder and vice president of products and services, did confirm that the product will receive several upgrades before it ships on undisclosed Windows Mobile phones later in 2008. Users should expect improvements to Zumobi's zooming navigation and download speed, and extended content categories, such as another sports score widget.
Zumobi's partnership with Microsoft should hardly come as a surprise. Its zooming technology was born and incubated within Microsoft's research womb, IP Ventures Group, before spinning off under the leadership of CEO Eric Hertz. Although Microsoft hadn't been funding the Seattle start-up directly, it did maintain a small stake, which explains why Zumobi's development is currently focused on the Windows Mobile platform (a J2ME version is in the works.)