Updated at 4 p.m. PDT with second-quarter smartphone sales figures.

It looks like Microsoft is stepping into the mobile “apps store” arena alongside Apple and Google. Recent findings suggest that the software giant is gearing up to introduce an applications store named “Skymarket” this fall for its Windows Mobile platform, as indicated by a recent job posting discovered by Long Zheng at Istartedsomething.com. The posting on Computerjob.com from this past Sunday outlines the recruitment of a Skymarket senior product manager to lead a team in launching a marketplace service for Windows Mobile.

Key responsibilities highlighted in the job ad include:

  • Leading the business model and essential components to enhance the experience for developers and drive monetization of the service by Microsoft
  • Facilitating cross-group collaboration for the initial launch of the marketplace offering to the developer community this autumn
  • Coordinating cross-group collaboration with stakeholders for the commercial launch of the marketplace service coinciding with the release of WM 7

Microsoft has been actively capitalizing on the increasing demand for smartphones, with smartphone sales constituting 19 percent of all mobile-phone sales in the second quarter, marking a 9 percent surge from the prior year, as reported by the NPD Group. In response to this trend, Microsoft rolled out version 6.1 of the Windows Mobile operating system earlier this year. This updated version boasts an enhanced browser aimed at providing a desktop-like Internet browsing experience on mobile devices.

Despite the promising growth projections, Microsoft encounters stiff competition in the smartphone market, which could pose challenges for expanding its market share as competition grows fiercer. Apple’s launch of the iPhone 3G and its App Store met with resounding success, generating approximately $30 million in sales of iPhone applications within the store’s first month of operation. Furthermore, upcoming phones featuring Google’s Android operating system are slated to enter the market soon, with Google recently unveiling Android Market—an online hub enabling users to discover, purchase, download, and rate applications and other content for mobile devices running on the open-source operating system.