Microsoft has finally announced the latest incarnation of its operating system for smartphones, Windows Mobile 6.5. It is in many ways an interim release, as we await the next generational rollout, version 7 next year.
Microsoft’s position in the business smartphone market has suffered against stiff competition recently from several quarters. Consumer focussed smartphones with attractive physical design and ‘finger friendly’ user interfaces have steadily encroached on the corporate space causing Microsoft some real problems, and Apple, Android, Palm and RIM have all generated stiff competition.
Yet the updated OS seems to include a fair bit of catchup rather than a whole lot of innovation.
The Windows Marketplace for Mobile, an on-device app store is far from a new idea. Nor is free over the air backup (via a service called My Phone), though both are Microsoft firsts in Windows Mobile 6.5.
US users will get a ‘lost phone’ premium priced extension from the My Phone service which can be set to erase a handset’s memory if it is lost. The service is set to come to Europe ‘in the near future’.
The user interface has been enhanced to be more finger friendly with the familiar Start button calling up a scrolling applications grid that is easy to use with a finger.
As you dig deeper into the OS, though, this veneer seeps away and you are likely to need a stylus to complete some tasks.
Internet Explorer now supports Adobe Flash Lite. While I have yet to try this at any length it has to be a move forward for a Web browser which has been left way behind by the competition.
There is emphasis on social networking with publishing direct to major services from both the device and the online backup My Phone area.
Microsoft has now decided that the business market alone is too narrow for it, and so it is presenting its smartphones as tools for both work and play. It even trumpeted an online custom theme generator in its press release.
Alongside this revised market there is the almost inevitable rebranding. Smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.5 are now to be called ‘Windows phones’.
In the UK the following new handsets have been announced:
HTC Touch II from T-Mobile and Carphone Warehouse
HTC Touch HD II from O2 and Carphone Warehouse
LG GM750 from Vodafone
Samsung Omnia II and Samsung Omnia Lite from Carphone Warehouse
Samsung Omnia Pro - B7730 from Carphone Warehouse
Sony Ericsson X2 from Vodafone
Samsung Omnia Pro B7610 from O2