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CTIA: First Impressions Of Windows Mobile 6.1

Microsoft's newest update to Windows Mobile was officially launched at CTIA on Tuesday. In many ways, the launch of Windows Mobile 6.1 wasn't a big surprise -- Microsoft had made reference to the operating system when it <A HREF="http://www.networkcomputing.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=202601664">announced</A> System Center Mobile Device Manager at the last CTIA show in October and news that the company would officially launch at CTIA had been discussed in the press for several days before th

Sean Ginevan

April 2, 2008

4 Min Read

Microsoft's newest update to Windows Mobile was officially launched at CTIA on Tuesday. In many ways, the launch of Windows Mobile 6.1 wasn't a big surprise -- Microsoft had made reference to the operating system when it announced System Center Mobile Device Manager at the last CTIA show in October and news that the company would officially launch at CTIA had been discussed in the press for several days before the show.We were able to get hold of a Motorola Q9h to try out the new Windows Mobile and, overall, our impression has been positive. We like the most notable visual improvement to Windows Mobile, which centers around a revamped home screen. While the traditional "Start" menu can be used to access applications, a series of panels have been added to quickly access common applications and information like the calendar, system settings, and the message center. The panels are pretty attractive and add to the Vista-like look and feel begun with Windows Mobile 6. Eric Zeman has a good video walkthrough of the new UI for those who are interested.

Speaking of messaging, Microsoft has finally added threaded SMS messaging, which allows your SMS messages to be viewed like an IM conversation and is clearly an answer to the Apple iPhone, which includes the same feature. SMS isn't the only messaging improvement -- enterprise e-mail users will enjoy the fact that Microsoft said they have improved the efficiency of Direct Push. The efficiency improvements result in up to a 33% increase in battery life over Windows Mobile 6 devices, according to the company. We'll have to take Microsoft's word on this one; we've always known that Direct Push & ActiveSync were pretty chatty and it's good to see Microsoft improve efficiency and thus battery life.

Power users will enjoy the addition of an actual task manager that allows users to see the amount of memory and CPU usage taken up by applications, as well as adding the ability to remove applications from memory. Some may figure that this functionality already existed; while many older Windows Mobile handsets did include a task manager, the functionality was added by the device manufacturer previously.

Enterprises will be interested in the release of Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, which can be obtained from MSDN today. The catch is that System Center Mobile Device Manager requires the use of Windows Mobile 6.1 devices to leverage the full breadth and depth of policy enforcement the product offers. While we haven't yet gotten a hands on look at System Center MDM ourselves, on paper the product addresses the lack of full policy enforcement that competitors like Research In Motion have offered for some time. Notable features include mobile VPN support, the ability to allow and disable applications as well as hardware features like cameras, device inventory, and reporting, over-the-air provisioning, encryption, and remote wipe, among other others.

Microsoft also announced Internet Explorer 6 for Windows Mobile, which is designed to deliver a mobile browsing experience that's far closer to the desktop than Internet Explorer Mobile offers currently. While Apple in some ways has set the bar as to what the mobile browsing experience should be, Microsoft has upped the ante by offering features like support for Flash Lite and Microsoft's own Silverlight. The demos Microsoft did were indeed impressive -- page renderings looked good and we were able to view Flash-based YouTube videos over a 3G connection. IE 6 should be available later this year, although Microsoft wouldn't commit to stating that IE 6 will be supported on all Windows Mobile 6.1 devices. The software will be released by manufacturers and carriers on a device by device basis. Microsoft did bring some improvement to IE Mobile to Windows Mobile 6.1 with the addition of the ability to zoom in and out in order to more quickly navigate around a page. While the feature is a nice touch, we'll be more eagerly waiting for IE 6's improved functionality and superior page rendering.

Microsoft announced several devices that will support Windows Mobile 6.1, including those from Samsung, Motorola, HTC, I-Mate, and others. It's unclear as to whether all of the devices that support Windows Mobile 6 today will be able to be upgraded to 6.1. Like IE 6, it will be up to manufacturers and carriers to decide which devices will get the WM 6.1 upgrade.

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