Microsoft feels the battle for the web heating up: with the success of Apple’s iPhone largely attributed to the mobile Safari browser that can render “normal” webpages, and the mobile version of Firefox nearing completion, they are desparate to keep up with the competition. 

In several interviews, Microsoft is telling reporters that a new browser for Windows Mobile 6 is in the works, which will be based on the IE6 rendering engine. CNet’s Ina Fried got a preview, and doesn’t sound terribly impressed:

I saw the browser running on Windows Mobile Standard–meaning on a non-touch-screen device. The browser makes good use of a D-pad controller to go from link to link, but it’s still not as elegant as on a touch screen. I’ll be interested to see how the browser works on a touch-based Windows Mobile device, but am still not expecting navigation to be up to the iPhone level.

It’s clear that the iPhone has set the new benchmark in mobile internet use, and it will be good for many users that there will be more competition in this market in the upcoming years, but I do hope that Microsoft will ditch the IE6 rendering engine in the near future. They are making some real progress towards standards compliance with IE7 and 8, so if they manage to get that engine into Windows Mobile web developers around the world will thank them for it.