At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Steve Balmer and Andrew Lees announced Windows Mobile 6.5, together with two additional services: (1) MyPhone and (2) Windows Marketplace for Mobile. This article will focus on the main changes in Windows Mobile 6.5 and provide some background information together with screenshots.
“Windows phones bring together the best of the Web, the PC and the phone so you can connect instantly to the experiences you care about, no matter where you are,” Ballmer said. “We’re working with partners across the industry to deliver a new generation of Windows phones that break down the barriers between people, information and applications and provide great end-to-end experiences that span your entire life, at work and at home.” [ref01]
The first remarkable fact is the naming: “Windows Phones”. Since a phone running the Windows Mobile platform is per definition a MOBILE device, the term Mobile is absolete. It’s al in the simplicity of the word choice: A phone running Windows. In slightly different words Clinton Fitch’s describes Balmer’s idea’s above:
“Microsoft is working on the concept that people and information are the center of your personal universe, not necessarily a phone, pc or other digital device. Accessing those people and that information is really what is key – on what you use to access them is somewhat secondary. To that end you will see with Windows Mobile 6.5 a focus on getting to the information you want to access quicker. Further, you will see more of this information being available in different locations. You can see some of that now with Live Mesh and with the introduction of My Phone, you will see this vision further develop.” [ref03]
The essence however is to connect the different platforms (PC, Cloud & Phone) and to get quicker acces to your information With this essence in mind I will guide you through the main area’s of change, and focus on the different aspects shown in the accompanied screenshots. After that I will provide a summary an some initial thoughts about the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system.
The first major area of change is the lockscreen, which is shown in the screenshots above ! Research has shown that people want to know three things on the first screen they see on a mobile device: (1) the time, (2) the next appointment, (3) the status of their phone. The latter means the notifications about missed calls, voicemails, new text messages etc. This lockscreen is shown when the device is touched or turned on. If you have enhanced security enabled on your Windows Phone, you probably need to enter the code AFTER this screen. The next appointment and the time are more or less obvious (remark the homescreen of SPB Mobile Shell and the background information I provided in the review of version 2.0). However the phone is locked and the blue box shows the total number of notifications. If you tap or click on the blue notification box, the notifications are split up per type. As an example you have a missed call, than you simple make a sliding gesture to the left or right, which results in the automated action of opening the dailer and calling the “missed call” number.
The second major area of change is the homescreen. I will start to lookback at (1) the sliding panels which were introduced with Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard, and (2) the interface of a Zune Player. It looks like bits of both interfaces have com together in the new Windows Mobile 6.5 homescreen design. While the sliding panels were only available on Windows Mobile Standard, this homescreen is rolled out both on Standard and Professional devices.
“The order of the items on the home screen are not movable but you will be able to add web widgets for things like weather. These widgets will automatically update so you don’t have to tap around to update them, improving the information feed to you.” [ref03]
For the readers among you who hooked up to the livestream of the keynote already saw this homescreen in action during one of the demo’s. Personally I was pleasantly surprised by the speed of the interface on the HTC Touch Pro2 device (Windows Mobile Professional). At this point in time it’s not clear to me if and how this new homescreen will interact with custom userinterfaces like TouchFLO 3D.
The third main area of change, and probably the most dramatic is the honeycomb-style start menu. Let’s have a look at a current professional device where you have a folder with programs and a folder with settings. If you install third party applications some get their link in the programs folder, others in the settings folder. With the new Windows Mobile 6.5 start menu both the settings and programs are merged into one single honeycomb-style menu, which is fully customizable. The end-user can manipulate the icons where-ever he or she wants to have it in the list. If you look at the darkened sides of the screen, and not showing additional honey-combs to the left and right a user knows that he cannot scroll to the left or right (and the same applies for scrolling up in the screenshots above). The start menu isn’t a single-level list, but consists of more levels:
“If, for example, you were to tap on Settings, you would see the Settings menu in this same honeycomb layout with thinks like Bluetooth, Owner Information and so forth occupying the cells of the menu.” [ref03]
The question may remain: “Why a honey-comb and not a box or a circle ?” There are two arguments which favor for use of the honey-comb design, which came out of Microsofts Research groups. (1) The honey-comb is the optimal area to tap on with your fingerprint (not a box or a circle), in short finger-friendlyness, and (2) The honey-comb design makes it possible to pack relative a large amount of links / icons into the screenspace. The combination of these two arguments results in this easy to use, simple start menu.
The fourth main area of change is the browser: Internet Explorer 6 (for Mobile). This browser supports flash lite, and is optimized for finger use like you can see in the screenshot above. Cool but very functional features are the zoombar and the breadcrumb, which shows up in the corner during panning accros a webpage. Furthermore Microsoft claims that it’s possible to complete more online transactions on this mobile browser (than on any other mobile browser). Furthermore this browser is based on the (desktop version) Internet Explorer 6, and now brought to the mobile platform.
“One of the questions that many of us MVPs asked was why the version was based on IE 6 when Internet Explorer 8 is near release. The answer, which makes good sense, is that the vast majority of website were built to the IE 6 standard. This will make sure the browsing experience more robust for users.” [ref03]
The last area of change is not directly ON the Windows Mobile platform, but consists of the services which INTERACT with the Windows Mobile 6.5 platform. Recently the Microsoft Live Mesh service was introduced, which easily connects and let you share files on the PC, in the cloud and on your phone. This only supports the fact that Microsoft will explore the service domain a little further. During the Micrsoft Mobile World Congress keynote of Steve Balmer and Andrew Lees two additional services were announced: (1) Microsoft MyPhone, and (2) Windows Marketplace for Mobile.
The MyPhone service was also shown in a demo, and if you are interested you can read more in my article about the MyPhone service. The second service Windows Marketplace wasn’t shown in a demo, nor in any screenshots, so we have to be a little patient to see more on this service.
WRAP UP & FINAL THOUGHTS
This article highlights the main changes that will come to the Windows Mobile platform in the next upcoming release called Windows Mobile 6.5. While there are changes in five main area’s I assume that Microsoft will do a lot more tweaking and finetuning under the hood, for example to increase batterylife. Overall I do think that this is a step in teh right direction, where both the Professional and the Standard platform get the same look and feel, resulting in a more unified platform. Furthermore Microsoft tries to simplify the use, and make it more easer to use (fingerfriendlyness), and for all to get quicker acces to your information. Also the addtional services are good signs, since I think that there is a bright future for services (compared to applications).
A first question might be: Is my phone compatible ?”
HTC’s Touch Diamond 2 and Touch Pro 2, announced today, will be upgradeable to Windows Mobile 6.5. New enhanced contact integration combined with new Internet capabilities deliver a people-centric approach to mobile communication. HTC’s Touch Diamond 2 features TouchFLO 3D, a sleek and compact design with a large 3.2″ high-resolution wide-screen display, while HTC Touch Pro 2 introduces one of the best-ever mobile productivity experiences on a phone highlighted by HTC’s new Straight Talk technology, an integrated E-Mail, voice and speakerphone experience.
The LG-GM7300 is a stylish, user-friendly phone with features such as one-click E-Mail set up to help people stay connected to the information they care about most. Available first on Windows Mobile 6.1, LG will add a Windows Mobile 6.5 version to the family, complementing an expanded alliance to dramatically increase the number of LG phones running Windows.” [ref01]
A second question could be: When will it be available ?
“The new Windows phones are expected to be available in the second half of 2009.”
While during the keynote we already saw some first impressions during the demo’s. I would like to finalize by asking your opinion about the changes, the direction Windows Mobile is heading, the services and the time frame of the whole development.
- THE UNWIRED: Microsoft announces Windows Mobile 6.5 with Marketplace and My Phone Services
- GEARDIARY: GearChat Windows Mobile 6.5 Officially Unveiled
- CLINTONFITCH: Windows Mobile 6.5
- MOBILEJAW: Microsoft Takes the Wraps off Windows Mobile 6.5
- POCKETPC THOUGHTS: Windows Mobile 6.5 Screen Shot Walk-Through
- MICROSOFT: Microsoft Reveals New Windows® Phones With Marketplace and My Phone Services
- WINDOWS MOBILE TEAM: Introducing Windows Marketplace for Mobile