Microsoft has finished the next version of Windows Mobile, which is expected to ship without all the intended user-interface capabilities.
Microsoft announced that version 6.5 of the smartphone operating system was completed in a Twitter update posted May 14 by the development team. By "complete" the company means it has been released to manufacturing.
Among the new features for Windows Mobile are a finger-gesture-driven user interface for menus, e-mails, and phone. There are also direct links to voice mail, e-mail, etc., from the lock screen. The mobile operating system now also has an improved desktop-like browser as well as support for Microsoft's Windows Marketplace for Mobile, the company's answer to the Apple App Store.
The 6.5 update also includes widget support, Office 2007 file format support, and an integrated My Phone service to back up your data to an online account.
In video posted by Microsoft before the announcement, senior project manager Loke Uei Tan said the team ran out of time and couldn't complete the interface as planned.
"We only spend what, eight months, nine months, to build 6.5 from ground up and it's actually an amazing engineering feat," Tan said. "But, in order to do that, we had to do some prioritization and we had to cut certain features."
Microsoft later posted a new video that focused on a number of the new features and UI improvements, apparently to play down the capabilities that didn't make it to the OS.
Windows Mobile 6.5 appears to be a stopgap measure, since Windows Mobile 7 may be a ways away, according to industry observers. Microsoft has not said when it would ship version 7.
Windows Mobile 7 is seen as Microsoft's attempt to get the mobile platform more competitive with consumers. Because of the success of Apple's iPhone, Windows Mobile is seen as user unfriendly in comparison. Windows Mobile 6.1, the current version, still requires a stylus for its touch screen devices to hit the small icons and app controls or to easily navigate the menus.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).