Microsoft has officially announced version 6.1 of its Windows Mobile operating system.
The new version, which has been the subject of rumours for the past few months, boasts a significant overhaul of the Internet Explorer Mobile browser, as well as several other enhancements. Microsoft also used the Tuesday launch to introduce a new services plan to make it easier for business customers to buy Windows Mobile devices and services at the same time.
According to Scott Rockfeld, the group product manager for Windows Mobile, the new version of Internet Explorer Mobile "takes the full rendering of Internet Explorer 6 [for the desktop] and brings that down to Windows Mobile 6.1". New features include the ability to pan and zoom.
Supporting rich web application technologies such as Flash and Silverlight, as well as Ajax applications, the new browser will be available on Windows Mobile 6.1 devices towards the end of this year.
Microsoft is also offering threaded text messaging for the first time with the release of its latest mobile operating system.
Another new release from Microsoft is the Live Search plug-in, which will be available at the end of April or start of May for a variety of mobile platforms. The application will plug into the contacts feature on Windows Mobile, so clicking on a specific contact will automatically use that person's address to locate them on a Windows Live map, and give the user directions to that address.
Tuesday also saw the release of System Center Mobile Device Manager, which Rockfeld suggested would allow IT departments to "deploy and secure Windows Mobile phones just like they do desktop computers". The suite allows enhanced management of things such as connectivity with Active Directory and mobile VPN.
Several operators said on Tuesday that they were in discussions with Microsoft regarding the delivery of the "Microsoft Mobile Services Plan" (MMSP). Operators such as O2 and Orange said they planned to introduce business-oriented subscription plans that will include a "corporate-grade network and data plan to support enterprise applications and services", as well as access rights to Mobile Device Manager and other "advanced mobile management features".
The MMSP plans will be made available later in 2008, Microsoft said.