Microsoft Announces Windows Mobile 6

Today Microsoft Corporation formally announced Windows Mobile 6 (codenamed “Crossbow”), the next version of its operating system for smartphones, PDAs, and Pocket PCs, is do to reach consumers in the second quarter of 2007. Despite a facelift, Windows Mobile 6 is lacking in whizbang new features to make mobile users and enterprise customers swoon, but does offer a number of incremental improvements which will be welcomed by many.

Windows Mobile 6 will bring a Vista-like sheen to the interface of portable devices, ramp up security, and add a handful of new features which were previously only available on PCs. Windows Mobile 6 will roll in services from Windows Live, enabling multi-person instant messaging along with the ability to send files—users will also be able to access Microsoft’s online Marketplace to purchase downloadable software (and media?) directly to their device. The operating system will also offer device manufacturers the ability to record and send voice notes. Of course, the workhorse functions of Windows Mobile will still be available—the ability to open and edit Microsoft Office documents—and will include a mobile version of Remote Desktop to enable users to manage far-away PCs via the Internet. Users with advanced devices will also be able to via HTML email messages with their original formatting intact, and Microsoft says Windows Mobile 6 offers significantly improved performance.

Windows Mobile 6 ramps up security, and plugs the “memory card hole” in Windows Mobile 5 whereby if someone got your device, they could simply take its to a memory card and peruse your data at their leisure from a PC, without ever unlocking the device. Windows Mobile 6 will enable users to encrypt data on their memory cards, so that it is accessible only on a particular device or via Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology.

Upgrades to existing Windows Mobile devices generally won’t be possible (we’d say “won’t ever be possible,” but there’s bound to be an exception or two): Windows Mobile devices aren’t PCs with upgradable operating systems, so the only way to set hands on Windows Mobile 6 when its available will be to obtain a new device with Windows Mobile 6 pre-installed. However, many users may want to keep their current devices and wait for the next major revision to Windows Mobile, codenamed “Photon”—but there’s no work on when that might realistically reach market.