Yesterday, Microsoft announced a new version of Windows Mobile at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, bumping it up from 6.1 to 6.5 (See:Microsoft launches Windows Marketplace at Barcelona). The OS was previewed by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on his keynote address, and includes a number of innovative features. Here's a detailed look.
My Phone service
My Phone is a free service that allows users to back up the phone's information to a password-protected Web service. It offers automatic synching and backup so that one can store contacts, appointments, text messages, and other information to the service and then easily restore the information to the device in case of loss or damage to the device.
In addition, My Phone lets users automatically upload photos and videos straight from the phone to the service. Currently, My Phone is only available as an invitation-only beta.
Windows Marketplace for Mobile
Windows Marketplace for Mobile will operate as the central hub for searching, browsing, and purchasing mobile applications for the supported smartphone. It comes preloaded on all Windows Mobile 6.5 devices where user will be able to download applications over the air or from the PC simply by entering a Windows Live ID.
According to reports, Windows Marketplace, which has almost 20,000 applications already developed for its Windows Mobile operating system, will be launched towards the end of the year. (See: Microsoft launches Windows Marketplace at Barcelona)
Internet Explorer Mobile
New user interface
The most noticeable difference one sees in Windows Mobile 6.5 is the user interface. It was designed to be "finger friendly" and "people centric," bringing more important information up front and allowing for a better navigation experience.
For instance, clicking on the start menu - which in previous versions of Windows Mobile brought up a list of links to select from - now brings up a screen of hexagon-shaped icons, which users can customize. Rockfeld, the director of Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business, said hexagons were chosen over circles, as they are closer to the shape of the tip of a finger and therefore useful on a touch phone.
A new lock screen also now features items that a cell phone owner needs to take action on, such as upcoming calendar items and missed calls. With one click, the application opens immediately.
Now, while these capabilities seem aimed for the touch screen, Microsoft said it's still committed to non-touch devices and offering its customers a choice, so Windows Mobile 6.5 will also come in Standard Edition.
LG made a major commitment to producing Windows Phones on Monday, unveiling a new, 3D interface for its high-end phones. The LG-Microsoft alliance was highlighted by LG Mobile's CEO, Dr. Skott Ahn, using LG's watch-phone to conduct a live video call with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The two companies have committed to release at least 10 LG Windows phones in 2009 and as many as 26 in 2012.
The first phone coming from the alliance is the GM730, a touch-screen phone that will feature Windows Mobile 6.1 at launch and Windows Mobile 6.5 later this year. The GM730 runs LG's new 3D, "S-Class" user interface, which uses lots of big, tactile graphics to make complex phones more fun and easy to use.
Taiwanese company HTC is also keen on the new technology. It announced that the company is bringing new address-book and call-organization technology to their own Windows Mobile phones. HTC showcased them on two new phones, the Touch Diamond2 and the Touch Pro2, both new versions of popular phones from US carriers.
A feature called "People-Centric Communication," according to HTC, enhances a phone's address book application so a user can smoothly slide over to see all of the e-mails, text messages, or phone calls sent to a particular person without leaving the contact book. One can then jump to a specific message without having to go through Windows Mobile's several levels of menus.
Another feature, dubbed "Straight Talk," kicks business calls up a notch. That software lets you call people directly from emails, create conference calls immediately from mass emails, and call into conference bridges very easily from a calendar alert.