U.S. Census to Count on Windows Mobile

In a sign that Windows Mobile may finally be coming of age, the U.S. Census Bureau has reportedly ordered 500,000 smartphones through manufacturer HTC running Windows Mobile 5.0 to assist workers gathering information for the nationwide 2010 census.

Although neither Microsoft nor the Census Bureau have yet commented, the order would mark one of the largest ever in the smartphone industry. The deal could also be a major blow to smartphone maker Research in Motion, whose popular BlackBerry devices have enjoyed wide adoption within federal agencies.

The order was part of a larger five-year, $600 million contract with Harris Corporation to build an automated data-collection system for census workers in the field. Under the contract. The smartphones will replace paper-based forms and address lists used by census workers, and form-based collection of information during interviews; the systems are expected to see widespread use during the 2008 “dress rehearsal” for the 2010 census.