With all the recent headlines surrounding Android handsets and the iPhone, it's easy to overlook some of the other operating systems in the mobile space, especially the less popular Windows Mobile family. With the iPhone in such a strong position and the ever increasing momentum behind Android, this can be considered a crucial time for Microsoft if it doesn't want to fall further behind.
Apart from the previous story regarding the Zune Phone, which may or may not be true, a lot of the company's hopes are resting on the next complete revamp of its mobile OS, Windows Mobile 7, rumored to be unveiled at the upcoming Mobile World Congress this month, with the final release set for later this year. In the meantime, the stopgap release of WinMo 6.5 last year was a nice improvement in some areas (homescreen and browser), but still severely lacking in most other areas with it being much less finger-friendly compared to its competitors.
Luckily, Microsoft recognizes this and has been working on WinMo 6.5.3 to try and close the gap a bit more, with the updated OS set to appear in the new Sony Ericsson Aspen due for release in Q2.
WinMo 6.5.3, although numerically a minor advancement, is actually quite a substantial update over the original 6.5 with some much needed improvements to the design and hardware support. Perhaps most importantly, it includes a much more finger-friendly layout throughout, where previous versions of WinMo were clearly designed for stylus navigation with touch screen support being secondary. Other improvements are native support for capacitive touch screens and multitouch, plus improved performance, memory management, and navigation for the browser and GUI, and revamped soft-keyboard layouts.
While most WinMo devices can be quite pleasant to use these days with the efforts of the manufacturers creating their own custom GUI ontop of WM, such as HTC's SenseUI, these improvements to 6.5.3 should make the OS better as a whole apart from just on the surface. Check out a great overview video (below) of WinMo 6.5.3 demonstrated on a Toshiba TG01 by Phone Scoop.
Focusing back on the Sony Ericsson Aspen handset (codenamed Faith), the new device is a business-oriented candybar handset with a 2.4" QVGA touch screen and full QWERTY keypad similar to some BlackBerry designs. Other specifications include quad-band GSM/EDGE, region specific HSPA 3G, WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, A-GPS, 3.2MP camera, and support for microSD. The handset is also part of SE's environmentally friendly GreenHeart range and is available in either black or white.
For me, the highlight here isn't specifically the Aspen handset but news of WinMo 6.5.3. Although I've never been a fan of Windows Mobile, I think it's always better to have more choice in the market and its good to see Microsoft moving in the right direction. Hopefully we should be hearing from manufacturers regarding upgrading existing WM 6.5 devices up to 6.5.3 very soon. Keep an eye out on further developments from MWC later this month..[Phone Arena]