Las Vegas — Microsoft went to the CTIA Wireless 2008 convention with version 6.1 of its Windows Mobile operating system and announced that updates for existing Windows Mobile phones, as well as new Windows Mobile 6.1 phones, will be available beginning early in the second quarter.
In the United States, at least 17 new and existing phone SKUs will offer 6.1, according to separate announcements by Microsoft and handset makers. The top five U.S. carriers will offer phones with 6.1 in 2008, said Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s entertainment and devices division.
Version 6.1 will be available for touchscreen-equipped PDA phones using Windows Mobile Professional and smartphones using Widows Mobile Standard. The upgrade is designed to make the phones simpler to use for voice, data and entertainment applications, Bach said during one of the show’s keynote speeches.
Enhancements include a customizable sliding-panel home screen that lets users “always see their most important information,” Bach said. That information could include emails, missed calls, text messages, next appointment and available music and pictures, he said. The upgrade also allows for easier setup, including setup of email accounts and automatic Bluetooth pairing.
Other enhancements include:
* An advanced email application that delivers laptop-like features such as selecting multiple emails for deletion or transfer to a folder. Users will also be able to copy and paste text from one email to another.
* threaded SMS text messaging;
* the ability to automatically put the phone into vibrate mode when the phone’s calendar indicates the user is in a meeting; and
* enterprise enhancements such as Mobile Device Manager 2008, allowing IT departments to manage mobile devices more like Windows laptops. That includes distribution of applications to mobile devices and enabling access to corporate data behind a firewall.
In the third quarter, Microsoft will also deliver a new Internet Explorer application for Windows Mobile 6.1 devices to enable a desktop-like browsing experience, including full-screen viewing of an HTML Web page. It will also allow panning and zooming of a Web page on a small screen and will deliver support for Web site video streaming in the H.264 and Flash Light formats. Phones with the new browser will be available by the end of 2008, Bach said.
Existing phones getting 6.1 as an upgrade include AT&T’s BlackJack II by Samsung, the Q9 from Motorola, the Tilt from HTC and the Duo from Pantech. Sprint phones getting a 6.1 upgrade will be the Mogul and Touch by HTC, Q9 from Motorola, and Ace by Samsung. Four new i-Mate unlocked GSM models, a new Palm Treo for Sprint and the new HTC Touch Dual will offer 6.1 out of the box. The Touch Dual is due in the second quarter.
For its part, Sony Ericsson said its previously announced Xperia X1 Windows Mobile phone, due at the end of the second half in the United States, will feature the 6.1 OS. It’s a quadband GSM/EDGE and triband HSPA (high-speed packet access) phone, likely to be available through AT&T.
Verizon, T-Mobile and Alltel will also offer 6.1 phones, Bach said. Alltel’s models will include the HTC Touch and HTC PPC6800, HTC said.