updated 09:55 am EST, Mon February 16, 2009
Windows Mobile 6.5
Microsoft today launched Windows Mobile 6.5, its next major update to its smartphone OS. The design completely revises the main interface with a new lock screen that shows quick notifications as well as a much more touch-ready main interface that includes a "honeycomb" home screen, Zune-like menus, and many other buttons and context-sensitive menus that are all sized and shaped to be used with fingers. A new requirement for a Windows button on all phones ensures every device can jump back easily regardless of where they are in the OS.
The software also includes the long-delayed Internet Explorer Mobile update with much more accurate HTML rendering, embedded Flash and Silverlight plug-ins, and a touchscreen-aware interface that supports single-touch swipe gestures.
Microsoft has confirmed that its My Phone service is a staple of Windows Mobile 6.5 and lets users automatically sync calendars, contacts, and multiple kinds of media with a cloud service that can be accessed through the web.
Also new is Windows Marketplace for Mobile, the finished version of the rumored Skymarket. A close parallel to Apple's App Store or RIM's BlackBerry Application Center, the portal will serve as a central gateway for Windows Mobile apps and will let users sign in with a Windows Live ID to download apps as an alternative to third-party stores like those from Handango.
Unlike the iPhone or BlackBerry stores, however, Microsoft also plans to make the Marketplace accessible from the web on a desktop computer; the company has also thrown indirect criticism at Apple by noting that Marketplace apps will only require compatibility and security checks before they appear on the store.
As has regularly been the case with Windows Mobile releases, 6.5 won't be available on shipping devices until the second half of 2009. My Phone is already active but is currently limited to an invitation-only beta.
The home screen
Updated Internet Explorer Mobile
My Phone (via web)