MS reveals Win Mo 6.5, phone line-up

6 Oct

WinMo Home screen

The
big M from Redmond has officially released the next version of its
Windows Mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5, as well as a
list of phones bearing the OS that will be available around the
world. Yes, yes, we had been messing around with Win Mo 6.5 for a few
weeks, but hey, now the whole world can do so. Officially.

“A
Windows phone lets people take their entire world of digital
information, communications, applications and entertainment with them
wherever they go,” said Microsoft CEO Steve
(he-who-stamped-on-that-phone) Ballmer. But is the new OS a breath of
fresh air or just a facelift to an ageing, if reasonably popular, OS?
Well, all said and done, Win Mo 6.5 does seem to bring some new
goodies to the mobile table. We have a new home screen with large,
finger-friendly icons, a thoroughly boosted Internet Explorer
browser, and in keeping with the social networking rage in mobiledom,
a “new enhanced Windows Live experience with What’s New feeds
and improved Windows Live photo sharing across major social
networking sites (such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Flickr)” .
And for those who like to tweak the appearance of their devices,
there is the Windows phone Custom Theme Creator, using which people
can create personalised themes for their devices.

Also
launched is the My Phone synchronisation and back up service for
backing up phone data, which will be free for Win Mo 6.0, 6.1 and 6.5
users until November 30, after which a price tag will be slapped on
it. Last but not least, there is the matter of Windows Marketplace
for Mobile, Microsoft’s reply to the Android Market, Apple App Store
and Ovi Store, which promises to help people find and purchase
high-quality mobile applications for both work and play, “while
creating a new opportunity for developers to reach millions of people
using Windows phones worldwide.” The marketplace has started off
with a modest 246 applications, but that number can be safely
expected to swell in the coming days.

HTC Touch Pro 2

On
the handset front, the Win Mo devices that will grace Asia in the
coming days are the Acer beTouch E100, beTouch E101, beTouch E200
and Acer neoTouch; Garmin-Asus nüvifone M20
;
HTC Snap, HTC Touch Pro2, HTC Touch
Diamond2 and HTC Touch2
; LG
GM730 and LG GM550
; and Samsung
Omnia II , Samsung Omnia PRO B7320, Omnia PRO B7330. From the
operator side, China Unicom will be offering the ZTE X60, while
Telstra will come out with the HTC Touch Diamond 2. A notable
absentee from that list is the company that gave us what we feel is
one of the best Win Mo 6.1 devices we have had the honour to use, the
Xperia X1 – Sony Ericsson. Alas, such are the vagaries of time. We
also noted with some regret that the HTC Touch HD2 was headed for
Europe and not Asia and that the much-talked of HTC Imagio would be
offered by Verizon in North America.

So,
will this signal a new era in the mobile history of the company that
has been literally bossing the computer segment with its OS? Although
we like the look and feel of Win Mo 6.5, we would like to be
permitted to raise a cynical eyebrow. For one, its most obvious new
feature – the larger icons and home screen – are likely to be
papered by cellphone manufacturers’ skins such as Samsung’s TouchWiz
and HTC’s TouchFlo. However, what is more distressing is that the OS,
for all its virtues, still seems to lack the interactivity that its
competition has. There is little sign of widgets or even of
integration with mapping services, even though Microsoft has plenty
of content in these departments. And while the new IE seems an
improvement over its predecessor, we are going to be sticking with
Opera Mobile.

But
while it might not turn the Mobile OS tide towards Redmond, Win Mo
6.5 is definitely a step in the right direction, and should keep MS
in the business until Win Mo 7 comes along. Hey, even Mr Ballmer
admitted that he could not wait for that operating system. Neither
can we. Look out for our detailed review in the coming days. 

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