Windows Mobile 6.0 (codenamed Crossbow) has been available to phone manufacturers since November 2006, but will get its formal public introduction on Monday according to Ina Fried at CNET:
Microsoft plans on Monday to officially announce Windows Mobile 6, formerly code-named Crossbow, at the 3GSM trade show in Barcelona. The first devices using the software aren’t expected until spring, however, with the bulk of products using the new operating system likely to come in the second half of the year.
Among the most visible changes is the ability to type in a few letters of a song, contact or e-mail subject and have the phone automatically show only matching results. The software also supports HTML e-mail. But for Exchange messages to be viewable in that form, a company also has to have Exchange 2007, the new version of Microsoft’s e-mail server software.
Windows Mobile 6 also builds in support for Windows Live instant messaging and e-mail, which enables users to see whether a contact is online and to get their Hotmail or Windows Live Mail messages pushed down automatically.
After years of struggling to make inroads in the phone business, Microsoft is starting to find its way. Its software is now on many of Palm’s Treo devices and also on new, slim phones like Samsung’s BlackJack and T-Mobile’s Dash. The company sold 3 million licenses of Windows Mobile last quarter, up 90 percent from a year earlier.
Because it uses the same core–Windows CE 5–the new mobile operating system is expected to work with nearly all the existing Windows Mobile 5 applications.
That’s also why some have called Crossbow Windows Mobile 5 Second Edition. The next big change in Windows Mobile is coming with Photon which is about a year away.
There are more details on Crossbow in the CNET report including that support for Office 2007 file formats will not arrive until the summer. Also there has been a nomenclature change:
Pocket PC Phone Edition, for touch screens, becomes Windows Mobile Professional, while Smartphone edition, for non touch screens, becomes Windows Mobile Standard. A third version, Windows Mobile Classic, is designed for PDAs without phone capabilities, an increasingly small slice of the market.
Photon is also supposed to finally unify the Pocket PC and Smartphone editions (by whatever name) which today generally require the development of two different versions of applications.
Update: Matthew Miller at ZDNet has a nice mini review and Jay Greene at BusinessWeek.com puts it all in perspective:
For Microsoft, the mobile phone business has been marked more by defeats than victories. When it pushed into the business in 2002, handset makers and mobile phone carriers balked, worried that the software giant would try to marginalize partners, squeezing the lion’s share of profits for itself just as it has in the PC business. What’s more, its software was clunky, and a battery hog to boot, making devices running it unappealing.
The turning point came in September, 2005, when Microsoft convinced longtime rival Palm to put Windows Mobile inside its popular Treo device. Microsoft Senior Vice-President Pieter Knook calls it a “watershed moment” for Windows Mobile’s legitimacy. Over time, the company became more willing to let handset makers and carriers define the customer experience, as long as users tapped into e-mail servers running Microsoft’s Exchange software.
Those improvements, along with the global familiarity with Microsoft’s software, helped it leapfrog BlackBerry. IDC’s estimates for 2006 worldwide market share for so-called converged devices—mobile phones that can handle e-mail and surf the Web—put Microsoft’s share at 9.8%, compared with 7.3% for BlackBerry. Still, BlackBerry held the U.S. lead through the first nine months of 2006, with a 49.4% share versus Windows Mobile’s 29% share. And worldwide, both significantly trail Nokia-backed Symbian, the mobile-operating system that’s huge in Europe and Japan.