Windows Vista isn't the only operating system making its debut this year, as Microsoft also revamped its OS for mobile devices and formally introduced Windows Mobile 6 at 3GSM World Congress. Taking the reins from Windows Mobile 5, Windows Mobile 6 isn't a complete overhaul of the OS; instead, it offers a number of useful enhancements that makes performing tasks easier and puts more powerful tools into the hands of mobile professionals. We were particularly impressed with the new e-mail search function, Mobile Office additions, and Windows Live integration, but we think Microsoft could have done a lot more. For example, multimedia improvements are practically nonexistent and the user interface is still kludgey, requiring numerous steps to complete a simple task. Also, some of the enhanced functionality to Outlook and calendaring require that you use Exchange Server 2007. Despite these flaws, the new improvements make Windows Mobile 6 worth the upgrade.
The best news, of course, is that new OS means there will be a number of new devices coming out. There will be three editions again, but they've been renamed as Classic (formerly known as Pocket PC Edition), Standard (Smartphone Edition), and Professional (Pocket PC Phone Edition), so you can look forward to a variety of form factors. In fact, we've already seen a number of product announcements from 3GSM, including the Motorola Q q9 and the HTC Vox. For Windows Mobile 5 users, Microsoft said it will be up to carriers and device manufacturers whether they will offer upgrades, but T-Mobile has already announced that it will offer updates to current T-Mobile Dash owners and future Dash devices will ship with Windows Mobile 6.
For our review, we checked out Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition using the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger, though we will continue to evaluate the OS and its variations as more devices start to arrive on the scene.
Windows Mobile 5 users won't be in for any major surprises when they see Windows Mobile 6, as the interface largely remains the same as before. Windows Mobile 6 does have more of a Vista look with its similar color scheme and bubbly, eye-pleasing icons. Along the top of the Today screen, you still get shortcuts to your most recently used apps, but the icons are slightly larger. Below that, you'll find such important information as time, date, upcoming appointments, messages, and so forth. Of course, you can customize the background image, color scheme, and backlight time.
One of the biggest complaints about Windows Mobile devices, especially when compared to Palm, is the number of steps it takes to perform a simple task, such as closing out of a program. This is still pretty much true of Windows Mobile 6, but Microsoft has taken some steps to ease the pain. For example, the company has added nine new e-mail shortcuts so you can easily reply, delete, move messages, and more. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Window Mobile 6 really doesn't offer any mind-blowing new features, but rather, it includes some nice refinements that make the devices easier to use as well as act more like your PC. However, we should warn you that a number of the enhanced PIM capabilities require Exchange Server 2007, so unfortunately, if you or your company have no plans to upgrade, you're left in the cold. We'll note such exceptions as we go through the features.
Contacts and Calendar
Starting with some of the basics, call history is now sorted to the appropriate contact page. Though you may think this isn't a big deal, it's actually quite convenient as you can easily see when you received and made calls to that specific person, the time of the call, the duration, and so forth. Also, the new OS provides a quick Send Text Message shortcut, so you can be on your way to text message heaven with just one click, rather than having to go through several steps.
The Calendar app is also more user friendly, as the upgrade provides a better view of your schedule at a glance. First, there's a new Calendar Ribbon that lines the top of the screen and shows you which times you are free and which are booked. In addition, you get a week view, and while it gives you a good overview of your schedule--complete with colored blocks for appointments--you can also get details of the event, such as meeting location, right along the bottom of your screen so you don't have to open each one. The calendaring capabilities are also more robust if you are using Exchange Server 2007. With that integration, you have the ability to not only see who is attending a meeting, but you can forward and reply to meeting requests as well. While we couldn't test this feature, we got a working demo, and we can see how it would really come in handy for the mobile professional, bringing more of that PC experience to your smart phone.