| Microsoft's latest operating system for mobile devices, Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, is not an earth-shattering upgrade. But it does open the doors for developers to build next-generation PDAs and smart phones. Dell's hip to it, and Asus is onboard, as is HP, and devices are cropping up, starting with the Dell Axim X30 series and now the new HP iPaqs. And later this year, we expect to see the first true smart phone with the OS, the Motorola MPx220. Still, what's all the buzz about?
You'll flip (literally) for the most notable addition: Landscape mode support. With this feature, you can switch from Portrait mode, rotating the display 90 degrees for a horizontal view. This is especially useful for Web pages, spreadsheets, and photos. To further enhance the Web experience, Microsoft integrated a one-column layout option for Pocket Internet Explorer so that you have to scroll only up and down, rather than up and down and side to side to view an entire Web page. Another addition is native support for full VGA resolution (640x480 pixels). With the higher-resolution screens, however, text appears smaller, so there's a new control under the Settings menu to adjust the font size. And the OS doesn't stop there. It also allows for square-screen support of 240x240 and 480x480 resolutions, leading the way for new form factors. Other enhancements include Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) for tighter wireless security, a shorthand Transcriber function, and access to recently used programs via the Start menu.
So is it worth the upgrade? If you desire any of these functionalities, Windows Mobile 2003 SE is definitely worth a look, but just because you want it doesn't mean you'll be able to get it. According to Microsoft, it's up to the so-called original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to decide whether to offer the updates. HP and Dell have no plans to make an upgrade available for existing PDAs, but they will include it in new products. Asus and Toshiba users, on the other hand, are in luck. Toshiba released updates for its e800 and e400 series, which can be found on the company's Web site. Asus said it will offer upgrades to its A716 but not to the A620. And if you're in the market for a new handheld, check out the following products, which come with the OS onboard.
Read the CNET editor's take