February 7, 2007 5:39 PM PST

Microsoft launches Windows Mobile 6

With its latest operating system, Microsoft is promising improved search, better security and tighter integration with Windows Live services.

But the operating system isn't Vista--it's Windows Mobile 6, the latest iteration of Redmond's software for powering mobile phones.

Microsoft on Monday officially announced Windows Mobile 6, formerly code-named Crossbow, at the 3GSM trade show in Barcelona. The first devices using the software aren't expected until spring, however, with the bulk of products using the new operating system likely to come in the second half of the year.

Among the most visible changes is the ability to type in a few letters of a song, contact or e-mail subject and have the phone automatically show only matching results. The software also supports HTML e-mail. But for Exchange messages to be viewable in that form, a company also has to have Exchange 2007, the new version of Microsoft's e-mail server software.

Full coverage
Going mobile at 3GSM
More news from the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona, one of the world's largest showcases of cutting-edge wireless technology.

Windows Mobile 6 also builds in support for Windows Live instant messaging and e-mail, which enables users to see whether a contact is online and to get their Hotmail or Windows Live Mail messages pushed down automatically.

After years of struggling to make inroads in the phone business, Microsoft is starting to find its way. Its software is now on many of Palm's Treo devices and also on new, slim phones like Samsung's BlackJack and T-Mobile's Dash. The company sold 3 million licenses of Windows Mobile last quarter, up 90 percent from a year earlier.

Because it uses the same core--Windows CE 5--the new mobile operating system is expected to work with nearly all the existing Windows Mobile 5 applications.

"We hope to be 100 percent compatible," said John O'Rourke, a general manager in Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded devices unit. "If an application works in Windows Mobile 5, it should work on Windows Mobile 6."

Safe and sound
On the security front, the new Windows Mobile allows individuals and businesses to better protect their data. The phone can now protect not only data stored on the device, but also encrypt information stored on a removable memory card. Businesses can also set policies requiring passwords to be changed regularly and also demand that they be made more complicated than "111111" or "123456."

As with past versions, the operating system comes in both touch screen and non-touch screen versions, with software makers still likely to need to write separate versions of their applications.

In addition, Microsoft has changed the names of the two types this go-around. Pocket PC Phone Edition, for touch screens, becomes Windows Mobile Professional, while Smartphone edition, for non touch screens, becomes Windows Mobile Standard. A third version, Windows Mobile Classic, is designed for PDAs without phone capabilities, an increasingly small slice of the market.

Support for a variety of devices is an important feature of Windows Mobile, O'Rourke said, noting that the operating system supports devices that have keyboards and those that don't, as well as candy bar, sliders and flip phones. "It's not a one-size-fits-all form of device," he said.

And while in the past Windows Mobile devices without touch screens were far more limited, the gap narrows this time around. In Windows Mobile 6, non-touch screen devices can, like their touch screen counterparts, access mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

However, neither Windows Mobile Professional nor Standard initially supports Office 2007's new file formats. That support is due to come in the summer, with a test version due out in the spring.

One of the changes that is under the hood in Windows Mobile 6, but not expected to be visible to consumers, is support for Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, calling. Microsoft isn't including software to let individuals make such calls, but has added the internal plumbing to allow carriers and device makers to add VoIP support if they wish. "It's an investment we are making for something that today isn't as predominant," O'Rourke said. "I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 12 months we saw some partner announcements" around VoIP.

In the longer term, Microsoft will still try to unify its historically separate Pocket PC and Smartphone code bases. The next version of Windows Mobile, expected to be based on Windows CE 6, aims to create a common code base, potentially simplifying the process for application developers.

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Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0, Microsoft Windows Mobile, Microsoft Windows Live, touch screen, Barcelona

8 comments

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Samsung Blackjack
When Windows Mobile 6 releases, will it be possible to upgrade the OS on devices such as the Samsun Blackjack ?

-Jonathan
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://jonathanbruceconnects.com/jonathan_bruce" target="_newWindow">http://jonathanbruceconnects.com/jonathan_bruce</a>
Posted by jonburce_ddt (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If Vista's emphasis was "security," WM6 needs "crashes less"
I'm a current (unhappy) owner of a Windows Mobile 5 based
phone.

It crashes all the time. I know that a lot of the blame lies with
the 3rd party programs I've installed (though an OS *should*
have better memory protection against leaks and bad
addressing), but there are many instances where I'm doing
nothing at all, and the OS just starts behaving very sluggishly,
claims it can't save 1K files, and more or less forces a restart.

And I have to restart (pen tip in hole thing) so many times, that
sometimes I forget to re-enter the phone PIN, so that I'm off air
without realizing it.

As a PDA OS, Windows Mobile 5 has a lot going for it: I can run
mapping software and a choice of thousands of commercial and
shareware apps, but as a PHONE OS, it is simply too unreliable in
my (fairly tolerant) experience.

6.0 has to improve this or this piece of junk is the last Windows
Mobile based phone I'll be getting.
Posted by dotmike (154 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have had
a Cingular 8125 and now a 3125 both are WM5 phones, the second being a smartphone. Niether has locked up once.

I have only added AvantGo to them so I dont have any real 3rd party shareware apps.

I never want to go back to a regular phone.
Posted by Lindy01 (443 comments )
Link Flag
As a PDA OS . . .
As a PDA OS, it is a bit of a disaster too. We "upgraded" handhelds
from CE to WM5 and had printer problems, modem problems,
crashing problems, non-existent wifi networks popping up, and
none of it had anything to do with 3rd party software.
Posted by sbwinn (216 comments )
Link Flag
mobile 5
Dot Mike, Also an extremely unhappy mobile 5 owner. My pocket PC gives new meaning to P of C My iteration is from Verizon and their additions to the misery factor keeps me from being able to work as I am one of those on call 24-7 guys.

try to answer a call - HANG try to make a call Yup you guessed it HANG. But one thing it does well, interrupt you to inform you of how many E-mails are in your inbox. Ususally just ahead of another HANG.

Verizon - rebuild, then a replacement phone and more of the same.

Tried to get Mobile 6 ( verizon rep suggestion ) and it is no better, and ties your hands further. Time for an I-Phone
Posted by knobtweaker (1 comment )
Link Flag
IE7?
But no mention of the one thing windows mobile really needs, an upgrade on the crappy cut down version of IE (4.1?) that ships with it.
Posted by lightweight1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Redmond should just...
release a phone with a full OS like the iPhone. Sure it won't be a true OS, but instead of having skimmed down version of the programs people DO use, give them the full thing.
Posted by aka_tripleB (2211 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Good upgrade resource
I found a good site for upgrade tutorials for many WM5 phones. It's <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.wm6wiki.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.wm6wiki.com</a> , had my phone on there and it worked!

Very happy camper! :)
Posted by Dr.ek2 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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