Microsoft is working to boost the appeal of Windows Mobile among consumers by appointing a new head of marketing and by lending support to a new application for viewing web content.

Microsoft announced on Tuesday that it has hired Todd Peters, formerly an executive with Staples, to be corporate vice president of marketing for its mobile communications business. Peters is tasked with positioning Windows Mobile to appeal more to a consumer audience. He fills a position left vacant by Suzan DelBene, who recently left the company.

Microsoft also said it will help market and distribute Zumobi, a software program that makes it easier for Windows Mobile users to access websites and widgets, or small applications that provide up-to-date information from the web.

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Zumobi said that Microsoft will distribute the software with Windows Mobile, although Microsoft characterised it as more of a marketing deal and said it would make Zumobi available for download from its websites.

Either way, the software, which had been available in beta since December from Zumobi's website, should now be easier for customers to get hold of. Zumobi did not respond to questions about the agreement.

The announcements reflect a recent push at Microsoft to attract more consumers in the face of competition from Apple's iPhone. "We are definitely moving into making Windows Mobile come alive for the consumer," said Scott Rockfeld, group product manager at Microsoft's Windows Mobile group. Rockfeld and other Windows Mobile executives have been emphasizing that the operating system is designed to be attractive to users in their personal lives as well as their work lives.

For now, the most compelling value is for enterprise customers who want mobile access to their corporate data and documents, and Microsoft will need to reach more consumers to maintain growth in the future, said Charles Golvin, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"They need to continue to evolve the value proposition and range of applications that are more centred around consumers, even though their primary focus is - and will remain in the near future - on the enterprise," he said.

The appointment of Peters and support for Zumobi appear to support this gradual build-up of support for consumer applications, he said.