"Software is driving the future of these devices, and that for us is a great opportunity," said Microsoft Corp. chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates, in his keynote speech at the Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference in Las Vegas.
"We are moving beyond just voice calls and SMS [Short Message Service] to a whole range of applications," said Gates. "In the mobile space, there is a radical shift and a lot of expectation about what people can get into this device."
The new operating system includes updates that will give handset manufacturers greater flexibility in building new devices and mobile operators ways to differentiate their offerings on those devices, said Gates.
And the forthcoming Visual Studio 2005 tool suite, coupled with new application programming interfaces (such as a new camera API) built into Windows Mobile 5.0, will make the Microsoft mobile platform even more flexible and customizable, Gates added.
New soft-key integration and QWERTY keyboard support will allow handset makers to create devices that can be operated with one hand without a stylus.
The new OS includes network support for high-speed 3G networks, Wi-Fi and improved Bluetooth support.
Other features in the new OS that could be compelling for enterprise users include improved editing and viewing of Word and Excel files as well as new support for viewing PowerPoint files; persistent store memory to prevent data loss if a device is left uncharged; support for Windows Media Player 10; and support for hard drives and USB 2.0.
Hardware makers Tuesday rallied around the new mobile system. Dell said it will offer a Windows Mobile version 5.0 software upgrade for its Axim X50 handhelds in the third quarter.
HP announced an upgrade for the HP iPAQ hx2100, hx2400, hx2700 and hx4700 handhelds this summer as well as plans to support the new version of the software platform in its future mobile offerings.
While some company watchers claimed that Microsoft would position the new Windows Mobile platform as a "BlackBerry killer," Gates made only a passing reference in the end of his keynote to the companys plan to allow push e-mail capabilities on Windows Mobile 5.0-based devices.
Devices based on the new OS running the next version of ActiveSync will incorporate push wireless e-mail functionality with Exchange Server 2003.
Some industry insiders have predicted that Microsofts move to provide push e-mail capabilities would be the demise of push e-mail specialists such as RIM (Research In Motion Ltd.) and Good Technology Inc., but those companies say thats not the case.
RIM and Good say Microsoft is only addressing a limited portion of the enterprise: those running Exchange Server 2003.
Further, the push e-mail providers point to their existing relationships with wireless carriers and handset makers.
"Im just not sure why this Windows Mobile launch is seen as materially adverse for RIM. If anything, the new client strategy of Windows Mobile should be very positive for our BlackBerry Connect business," said RIM co-CEO Jim Balsillie, in Waterloo, Ontario.
Good announced Tuesday that its GoodLink remote data access device and server software—which competes with RIMs BlackBerry platform, and GoodAccess technologies, for access to other back-end corporate applications like CRM systems—supports Windows Mobile 2005.
Ed Granger-Happ, CTO of the nonprofit group Save the Children, in Westport, Conn., which is currently using about 50 PalmOne Inc. Treo 600s and GoodLink technology for wireless e-mail access, says he sees no compelling reason to consider other technologies at least for the next few years.
"I have a very happy user community, and Im not going to touch that in return for a new technology that has yet to be tried, tested and shaken out," said Granger-Happ. He added that the company, like many other enterprises, has not yet upgraded to Exchange Server 2003.