Microsoft went ahead and met our expectations of a Windows Mobile 6.1 announcement at CTIA Las Vegas 2008. The revised Windows Mobile UI looks good, works well, and gives the Windows Mobile platform the aesthetic boost that it’s been needing for a few years now. The homescreen has been reorganized with a “sliding panel” UI. You can add or remove panels to the homescreen as you see fit, giving the user complete control over quick-view information access directly from the homescreen.
And, to make SMS text messaging and web browsing more enjoyable and intuitive, Microsoft has finally gone live with their threaded messaging setup and revamped the Internet Explorer Mobile (Pocket IE) web browser. SMS text messages are organized, by conversation, into a single thread, making it easy to track your past messages. The new IE Mobile offers zooming and panning features that should make mobile web browsing a bit more tolerable on the default WinMo browser.
The real news here is Microsoft’s work on the next revision of Internet Explorer Mobile. Derek Snyder from Microsoft was on hand to give the press an insider preview of what the future of IE Mobile would look like. Pan and Zoom features are included in the upcoming release of IE Mobile, but that’s already available on the current Windows Mobile 6.1 release so it’s not really that exciting.
What is exciting, however, is the complete overhaul of IE Mobile. The next version of Pocket Internet Explorer will apparently be using the same code as the desktop Internet Explorer, ported to work on Windows Mobile 6.1. This will allow Windows Mobile to deliver a full desktop-browsing experience right out-of-the-box. No need to install third-party mobile web browsers (Opera Mobile, Firefox Mobile, etc.) that can pan, zoom, and render full HTML pages, Windows Mobile 6.1’s future Internet Explorer Mobile will handle all your full-page viewing needs.
I wasn’t able to get video of the new Internet Explorer in action, but I did manage to score some high-res pics. The Red handset in the pictures is the BlackJack II and the Black handset is the Samsung i780. Notice the “Zoom” feature on the BlackJack II’s Windows Mobile 6.1 Internet Explorer Mobile. Compare that to the Samsung i780’s Windows Mobile 6.1 Internet Explorer Mobile beta – the revamped version of Windows Mobile Internet Explorer made with the desktop version of Internet Explorer’s code. And, it’s safe to say that this future version of Internet Explorer will be serving up webpages on Windows Mobile 7.
The new version of Internet Explorer Mobile for Windows Mobile 6.1 is due out by the end of this calendar year – look for it to drop around the holiday shopping season. We’ll have to wait and see how the new IE Mobile competes with the likes of Firefox Mobile and Opera Mobile 9.5, but from the initial preview, I’d say things are looking good for Windows Mobile.