Tech Guide: Microsoft ships Windows Mobile 5.0

Microsoft has released an upgrade to its operating system for handhelds and smartphones. Stand by for better business productivity, snappier multimedia and a wider range of device form factors.

Microsoft has released an upgrade to its operating system for handhelds and smart phones. Stand by for better business productivity, snappier multimedia and a wider range of device form factors.

Microsoft ships Windows Mobile 5.0
Although many have predicted the demise of the handheld, the release of Windows Mobile 5.0 (formerly codenamed Magneto) shows that the mobile scene is not only viable but strong. Building on the success of Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, with version 5.0 Microsoft aims to provide handheld, mobile phone and media player manufacturers with a more solid platform on which to build their devices.

Three-pronged approach
In developing Windows Mobile 5.0, Microsoft has taken a three-pronged approach that focuses on productivity, the multimedia experience and the ability for manufacturers to differentiate their hardware.

With Windows Mobile 5.0, Microsoft addresses many of the productivity issues that hampered its predecessor. Pocket versions of popular applications such as Word and Excel have been replaced by more capable Mobile versions: Word Mobile now supports tables, lists and embedded images, while Excel Mobile allows you to create charts and graphs. There's also PowerPoint Mobile, which although it doesn't let you modify presentations does allow you to view them.

One of Microsoft's assumptions behind the development of Windows Mobile 5.0 is that people will often use the same device in different settings. For example, the smart phone that you use for productivity purposes is the same device that, after work, becomes an entertainment machine. This is where version 5.0's multimedia capabilities come into play, as the device ships with Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile and includes support for integrated hard drives. USB 2.0 support also makes for faster file transfer and synchronisation.

Microsoft has also developed Windows Mobile 5.0 in such a way that hardware manufacturers will be able to create devices in many different form factors, incorporating QWERTY keyboards, landscape display orientation and soft-key integration. There is also support in version 5.0 for a wider range of wireless technologies, such as 3G and Wi-Fi for smart phones, plus improved Bluetooth support.

Persistent storage
Another area where Windows Mobile lagged behind Palm OS was in the realm of persistent storage. Historically, when the battery on a Windows Mobile-based device drained completely, user data was lost. To counter this, Windows Mobile-based devices sometimes allocated up to 30 percent of their battery power just to save data. Windows Mobile 5.0 now has built-in support for persistent storage, so that when the battery drains completely, your data remains intact. This means that you can expect longer battery life, as the device won't have to allocate any power to maintain the information stored on it.

When it comes to productivity on the go, Windows Mobile 5.0-based devices will also benefit from improved email connectivity. Not only will the devices provide access to corporate and POP email, but version 5.0 can also now access Hotmail and MSN in-boxes from within Outlook Mobile.

With support for ActiveSync 4.0, Windows Mobile 5.0 now gives you the ability to synchronise wirelessly via Bluetooth. Additionally, devices will support pictures in contacts, as well as many other user-friendly extras.

No Windows Mobile 5.0 devices have yet been announced for the UK, but we expect to see them arriving within the next few months. Stay tuned for previews and reviews of these handhelds and smart phones as they arrive.

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition
Microsoft's latest OS for handhelds and smart phones -- Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition -- adds some attractive features, such as VGA support.