Microsoft announced its latest operating system for PDAs, smartphones and media players today, adding support for many features available in cutting-edge phones and giving mobile carriers more flexibility in customizing devices—which might just lead to more Windows Mobile devices appearing on store shelves.
Windows Mobile 5.0 isnt a radical re-imagining of Microsofts previous OS, Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Rather, its an accumulation of new features designed to satisfy users wish lists, stave off competition, and prepare Microsoft for the devices we know are coming in 2006. Like other evolutionary upgrades, its backwards compatible. Almost all Windows Mobile 2003 software will run on 5.0, Microsoft says.
According to research firm Gartner, Windows Mobile is now the number one standalone PDA OS, but the Smartphone version is way behind Nokias Symbian devices in global market share, and Research in Motions Blackberry devices are gaining in the PDA space.
So, to help fend off Blackberrys rise, Windows Mobile 5.0 will include Hotmail e-mail and MSN Messenger support directly into the OS — though Microsoft corrected an earlier report by telling us theres no push e-mail yet. And in an effort to help defeat the phone-centric Symbian, Windows Mobile will cut its power requirements by up to 30 percent and allow mobile carriers like Cingular to customize home screens in new ways, locking in specialized wallpaper, icons and key arrangements.