Microsoft just announced Windows Mobile 6 (press release) at the 3GSM World Conference in Barcelona, Spain. The first WM6 powered devices will start hitting the streets by the second quarter of this year, and many companies are planning upgrade options for existing WM5 devices.
There are a lot of changes in this release, but Microsoft has really focused on improving usability and adding support for more Microsoft Office features. The user interface has received a much needed face-lift, giving it more of a Vista style look with smooth gradient blends and better 3D graphics. A very complete review is available on mobile-review.
The most interesting feature is that this version of Windows Mobile will support Windows Update, which is a big departure from Microsoft’s past position on updating the operating system. This release will also come with the .NET Compact Framework 2.0 SP1 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition installed in the ROM.
There is a great overview showing What’s New for Developers in Windows Mobile 6 on MSDN. The biggest change is that with this release, the naming conventions have changed. We now have Windows Mobile 6 Standard, Professional, and Classic editions along with two new SDKs (Standard and Professional). Confused yet?
The Windows Mobile 6 Standard edition uses the Windows Mobile 6 Standard SDK, so this is a one-to-one mapping and replaces Windows Mobile 5 for Smartphone.
Windows Mobile 6 Professional and Classic editions both use the Windows Mobile 6 Professional SDK. The replacements are:
Windows Mobile 5 for Pocket PC Phone Edition -> Windows Mobile 6 Professional
Windows Mobile 5 for Pocket PC -> Windows Mobile 6 Classic
Personally, I think these are backwards as WM5 for Pocket PC has a lot more features and is much more business professional oriented than WM5 for Pocket PC Phone Edition.
The key difference is that Windows Mobile 6 Professional and Classic editions are for devices that have touch screen support. Windows Mobile 6 Standard is for devices that do not have a touch screen.
A full picture gallery is available on engadget.
Overall, the new version looks really nice and I can’t wait to upgrade to it. No, it doesn’t compare with the very slick and polished interface on the Apple iPhone (or whatever it will ultimately be called). I do know that the Windows Mobile development team is already working on the next release of Windows Mobile, which possibly will be out and in devices by this time next year.