I recently got a briefing from Microsoft on the next two versions of Windows Mobile, and there's good news and bad news. The good news is that both of these upcoming versions look good. The bad news is that neither of them will be available any time soon.
A pre-condition of getting this briefing was that I'm only allowed to share my impressions of these upcoming versions, not give any details. Still, half a loaf is better than none, as the saying goes.
It has been known for some time that next version of this operating system will essentially be an updated version of Windows Mobile 5, without any radical changes. It will be similar to a situation we had a few years ago, when Microsoft updated Windows Mobile 2003 to Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition.
What's nice is how many improvements will be included in this update. I wish I could give you a list of the new features, but I can't. Still, I think I can safely say that if there's an improvement to Windows Mobile 5 you've been hoping for, it's probably in there.
The two versions of this operating system are continuing to grow closer together. The Pocket PC version will be getting some improvements to make devices using it better smartphones, and the Smartphone version is getting new features to make devices running it better PDAs.
Microsoft won't reveal, even in the confidential briefing I went to, what the official name for the next version of Windows Mobile will be, but I won't be breaking any non-disclosure agreements by telling you its code name is Crossbow, as Microsoft employees have been openly calling it that for months.
I think this is going to be a welcome update to Windows Mobile, and I wish it was coming sooner. According to Microsoft, the first devices running Crossbow won't be available until the second half of 2007. And, realistically, I'm not expecting them until next fall.
So it's going to be about a year before and handhelds or smartphones running the next significant update to Windows Mobile hit the streets.
Microsoft is being so secretive about the next really major update to Windows Mobile it won't even give its code name, though most people have been calling it Photon for some time. For convenience sake, I'm going to keep calling it that. A good guess on the final name is Windows Mobile 6.0, though Microsoft won't confirm that, of course.
As I said before, all I can give you on this upcoming version is my impressions, not any details. I wasn't even allowed to take notes during the presentation.
With Photon, Microsoft's developers have made great improvements in ease of use. Imagine being able to control every facet of your device from one screen, with one hand. You'll be able to do that with Photon.
Microsoft isn't completely pitching out the user interface we've all become accustomed to on our handhelds and smartphones; It's just refining it, and making it much easier to use.
Really, I think just about everyone came out of the briefing wishing handhelds and smartphones running Photon were available now. But they aren't and they won't be for a long time, as Microsoft is now saying that this upgraded version of Windows Mobile won't be out until 2008.
At this point, I wouldn't expect devices running Photon until about two years from now. With Crossbow not being released until the second half of 2007, I'd be very surprised if Photon was available before late 2008. That's a long time to wait for something that's going to be this good.
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