Microsoft’s big noise at 3GSM was the announcement of Windows Mobile 6, and the investment in its promotion was well up to Microsoft’s usual standards of effort and expenditure. So was it all worth it? Is this the answer to S60 and the BlackBerry?
Another significant change is the inclusion of support for Microsoft Office features previously available only on PCs.
So Windows Mobile 6 includes the mobile versions of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint; users can view, navigate and edit Word documents and Excel spreadsheets in their original formatting, without affecting tables, images or text. PowerPoint presentations can be viewed but not edited, but then no-one in their right mind would actually want to design or amend a presentation on a smartphone.
It also includes integrated push-style email and Outlook sync via Microsoft Exchange servers, introduced with Windows Mobile 5 but only as options.
Other plus points:
• Easier email setup and management. Nine new one-click options have been added, including (for the first time) setting a flag. Users whose parent organisation runs Exchange Server 2007 can also set an automatic out-of-office reply
• The ability to view emails in their original HTML format, so text and images are displayed as they would be on a PC
• Improved device security and management – including the capability to remotely wipe all data from a device should it be lost or stolen, helping ensure that confidential information remains that way
• Smart calendar bar, a nifty at-a-glance summary of how busy the day or week ahead is
• A single addressbook including phone, email and Messenger contacts in one place (and see presence information is shown for Windows Live Messenger names)
• Contacts with context. Call history is now placed where it belongs, in each individual contact card, so people spend less time searching and more time communicating.
• Protected content if the organisation uses Microsoft’s Information Rights Management (IRM) technology. That can control the viewing, storing and printing of confidential information, a PC feature that Microsoft says isn’t available on any other mobile phone platform
• Improved web browsing. Internet Explorer is faster on WM6 (the glacial pace of screen drawing on WM5 is often something to behold) and the homepage now contains a search box and useful quick-access drop-down boxes for Favorites and History
• Internet sharing – an easy way to use a Windows Mobile smartphone as a laptop’s modem via cable or Bluetooth
• Easy VoIP integration – as a result BT and HP will be among the first to provide smartphones with new VoIP offerings for their business customers.
• The disappearance of Smartphone and PocketPC versions of Windows Mobile. Yes, the names have changed – the former is now called Standard and applies to devices that don’t have a touchscreen , the latter is now called Professional and works on touchscreens – but they are still confusingly separate and in some respects incompatible. For instance, WM6 Professional devices can be used to create Office Mobile documents from scratch, while Standard WM6 phones can only read them and make minor edits
• Memory management is still a bit flukey, relying on human actions rather automated intelligence.
• The classic menu-based user interface of Windows may be easy to learn, but it can be a bit frustrating for the kind of power users who will be early adopters of WM6. On the PC it’s possible to bypass a lot of the novice-level
• There’s no support for PDF documents, so PDF attachments can’t be viewed.
• The mobile version of Live Messenger doesn’t support any other IM clients, not even the Yahoo IM that is featured in the desktop version of Windows Live.
• Internet Explorer is now faster, but to us it still felt slower than say Opera.
Conclusion? A lot of very nice smartphones have appeared in the last six months, and Windows Mobile was starting to look a bit tired. The new release means the software has caught up with the hardware.