If you haven’t heard about Windows Mobile 5.0 yet you must be living under a rock, or offline for the past 24 hours. Microsoft announced the release of the next version of the Windows Mobile operating system this week as Bill Gates gave a presentation showing off the changes to the Pocket PC and Smartphone operating system. Microsoft surprised many by changing the name from the expected Windows Mobile 2005 to Windows Mobile 5.0, a name less likely to cause embarrassment to the company like the Windows Mobile 2003 name does today.
Mobile apps: Gone are Pocket Word and Excel and in are Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, and the new PowerPoint Mobile. All three new programs add functionality that comes closer to that found in the desktop versions, including tables and charts. Pocket MSN (for some reason not following the Mobile naming scheme) is included.
Voice Command: OEMs now have the option to bundle Voice Command with their devices.
Internet Explorer Mobile: Gone is PIE and in is IEM. You can now download files directly in IEM. VGA support is better.
Media Player 10: basically the same with user ratings added.
Persistent storage: your data will now survive a reset. Finally.
A host of enhancements for the Phone Edition and Smartphone adding support for 3G networks, UI customization, etc.
The Pocket PC version of WM5.0 looks basically the same. The UI has not been modified or updated much at all. It feels like the old version which has been around now for a very long time.
Internet Explorer Mobile adds a security icon to the screen when appropriate. That’s really the only major change to a bad program. No tabbed browsing.
PowerPoint Mobile while a welcome addition to the OS is just a viewer, no editing (even minor) of slides is possible.
ActiveSync 4.0 is the new version of the synchronization software that goes with WM5.0 and it has some cosmetic improvements. Partnering to a new computer is easier in 4.0. WiFi synchronization is no longer possible, it was removed in AS 4.0 and WM5.0.
Microsoft put a lot of work into Windows Mobile 5.0 and I have no doubt this version will be faster and more stable than previous versions but it looks like the same old Windows Mobile interface, which is getting a little long in the tooth. Most cosmetic and usability improvements seem to be in the Phone Edition and Smartphone versions which no doubt reflects the ultimate direction Microsoft is taking with this platform.
Both HP and Dell have already announced upgrades to the WM 5.0 will be available for some of their current models. Many software developers have also announced their programs are ready for the new operating system.