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Microsoft Launches Windows Mobile 6.5

This morning, Microsoft launched the first major upgrade to its mobile-phone software since 2007's mediocre Windows Mobile 6, which offered few upgrades from 2005's Windows Mobile 5. In that time, the smartphone universe has been upended by such gadgets as Apple's iPhone, Google Android-powered devices, and Palm's Pre - -and Windows Mobile has started showing its age. Badly.


Windows Mobile 6.5, which had its public debut in February, attempts to catch up with those competitors. It includes an updated Internet Explorer browser that can present full-sized pages with their looks and functions intact, a simpler program-management screen, a My Phone online-backup service, and -- perhaps most important in the long term -- Windows Marketplace for Mobile, intended to match Apple's App Store, Google's Android Market and Palm's App Catalog in providing simple browsing and installation of add-on software.

But although programmers have been writing software for Microsoft's mobile-phone operating systems for more than a decade -- last month, Windows Mobile product manager Greg Sullivan said more than 20,000 Win Mobile apps were available -- the Marketplace features only a tiny subset of that selection: 246 programs, according to Microsoft's press release.

In the U.S., AT&T Wireless, Sprint and Verizon Wireless now sell or will soon offer Win Mobile 6.5 phones from manufacturers HTC and Samsung. I'm trying out AT&T's HTC Pure (pictured here), although you'll have to wait until this weekend's column to see my take on that device and another new smartphone I've been looking forward to testing, Sprint's Android HTC Hero.

In the meantime, initial reactions elsewhere to Win Mobile 6.5 don't seem too complimentary -- see, for instance, PC World's roundup of the first batch of reviews.

I haven't read those evaluations beyond their headlines, because I'd rather assess this software without having other reviewers' assessments in my head. But there is one outside perspective I could use as I write this review: that of longtime Windows Mobile users pondering an upgrade. What would you want to see a new release of Windows Mobile do? What faults should it correct? What features should it add? What should it leave alone? Post your wish list in the comments and I'll see how this phone and its software match up.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  October 6, 2009; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets , Windows  
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I am a long-time user of Windows Mobile who cannot switch to the iPhone for work reasons, but am thinking about switching to Android if WM 6.5 doesn't deliver the goods:

* vastly improved web browsing, following the Apple example of rapidly pulling up full-page views and enabling quick pin-pointing and zooming of content wanted

* eliminate the reliance on a physical keyboard and stylus (the tip of the stylus of my current phone broke off in the holster so I can't carry a stylus anymore; and the keyboard is so slow to use compared to touchscreen input that I find myself wishing it wasn't there so the phone would be lighter)

* improved support for video; both playing videos on websites, and capturing video in a format that can be opened in different programs (there is some issue with video capture on my current phone where the files cannot be opened by Windows Media Player or Adobe Premiere Elements on my desktop)

* consolidating contacts and calendar items from multiple sources including Zimbra (for work) and Google, in single contacts or calendar applications

* access multiple social networking media through a single application.

Posted by: AmitDC | October 6, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I used Windows Mobile for many years, and even developed a few apps for fun. Programming Win Mobile is much easier than the iPhone. Two things are critical if Windows Mobile is ever to increase market share.

1. They need a full-functioned browser that can fully view/utilize any web site.

2. Most importantly, updates must be down-loadable by the user. This is one thing the iPhone really does well. Updating Win Mobile can only be done by the carriers which they never do, so essentially it means buying a new phone.

Posted by: TokyoDoc | October 6, 2009 9:19 PM | Report abuse

My experience with Windows Mobile is based on two iPaq pdas (running 2003SE) and the Asus P750 smartphone (running version 6.1). I am a satisfied user, but here is my non-expert's wishlist for my next Windows Mobile device: (i) ability to remember which keyboard I am using; (ii) faster startup; (iii) quicker tap response; (iv) less dependence on the stylus; (v) faster browser; (vi) across-the-board consistent software installation procedure; (vii) ability to put icons and interactivity on the main screen without third-party apps.

Posted by: bentleychan | October 7, 2009 3:36 AM | Report abuse

I used WinMobile for several years and was fairly happy, but they really need some way to update it more frequently. Just as with Vista, its a resource hog that required at least daily reboots of the phone. The phone allowed for little customization and browsing was unbearable. I tried Symbian (no better), and finally went with the iPhone and amazed that they just seem to get it and understand how people are using smartphones.

Posted by: mdembski1 | October 7, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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