We’ve seen pretty of news and demos on Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional here at pocketnow.com and with Microsoft and device manufacturer demos at Mobile World Congress and other trade shows and expositions. However, what we haven’t seen is a Windows Mobile 6.5 demonstration or news on the Standard platform, Microsoft’s non-touchscreen operating system. This is interesting, considering that the newly released Samsung Jack has been blessed with a 6.5 upgrade that we haven’t heard much about for Windows Mobile Standard. Will Windows Mobile 6.5 Standard offer as drastic a change compared to the touchscreen counterpart? Click on to see what I speculate the changes that will become part of Windows Mobile 6.5 Standard.
User Interface: In the touchscreen Professional version, there is a more dramatic interface change to a more user and finger-friendly Titanium Home Screen, bringing sliding panels. Given that many Windows Mobile Standard devices already have panels functionality built-in, the touch-less version of Microsoft’s mobile OS will get a less drastic visual upgrade–expect to see additional panels (maybe weather, Facebook), some refinements, and a bit more glitz. Also, we may see some designer themes and backgrounds, especially since we’re getting some celebrity commercials. Given the enhanced panels, we may see the programs quick launch bar on the main Today screen of Windows Mobile Standard disappear in 6.5 for a more enhanced Start menu (see next section).
Start Menu: The Start menu on Professional now takes you to a staggered grid, also known as the honeycomb, taking you to a full listing of programs. With Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard, hitting the Start button already takes you to a full list of programs–not a lot of change compared to Pro. There won’t be a staggered honeycomb layout because the OS doesn’t need a finger-friendly grid, rather all the controls will be done through hardware like a trackball or directional pad. That said, we may see cosmetic improvements to the display, but not a big change in the way that users interact with the Start menu.
Programs: We have confirmed app store applications on the device in the form of a Marketplace for Mobile application and some other programs and widgets as well, mainly an official Facebook aplication (although it is developed by Microsoft and not by the Facebook makers). Microsoft will most likely bundle My Phone, its own cloud-based back up system for contacts, appointments, messages, photos, and music. Live applications for Microsoft’s services and Voice Command may be thrown in the mix as well.
Web Browsing: A reader pointed out in one of our discussions that Internet Explorer Mobile (also commonly referred to as Pocket Internet Explorer or PIE) will be upgraded to IE Mobile 6. I haven’t played around with IE Mobile 6 on Standard, but the user notes that it is clunky and a bit more difficult to maneuver compared to the version on the touchscreen.
Manufacturer Differentiation: HTC did a fantastic job with TouchFLO 3D v2 on Professional. With HTC Contacts, HTC integrated contacts with Facebook creating a better experience where you can use Facebook photos as contact pictures and add in birthdays if you care. This brings the HTC-made devices to a similar level as the Palm Pre in terms of information awareness in connecting people. Not much is known about any Windows Mobile 6.5 Standard customizations, but hopefully manufacturers can add their own secret sauce to avoid becoming a commodity. I’d like to see HTC continue with their Facebook implementation of the HTC Contacts application in the HTC Snap, although the email filter called Inner Circle looks great.
Hardware Keys: On the Standard platform, hardware keys seemingly remain unchanged. On the Jack, you still have the Home button, which takes you to the Today screen (hopefully with more panels this time around), the back button, and soft keys. On the Today screen, one soft key is still a quick access key to the Start menu for your full list of programs.
Overall Speculations: Windows Mobile 6.5 Standard is less of a radical departure from Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard compared to the Professional version. As such, I feel that it is more like Windows Mobile 6.2. With Windows Mobile 6.0 and 6.1 Standard, Microsoft had already created a stable operating system that is intuitive for a smartphone OS and does what it needs to. A lot of the 6.5 improvements will be seen under the hood with increased memory for storage and multitasking (ROM and RAM), faster processor to handle more background applications and media files, and a growing library of third-party applications from the Marketplace app store. We really think that Standard’s upgrade is more minor and should be more akin to a Windows Mobile 6.2 label. With the touchscreen version, Microsoft needed to compete with a user interface that is getting defined by the iPhone. In the non-touch version, Windows Mobile Standard is as competitive in its ease of use and stability as Symbian S60 and the BlackBerry OS, offering similar functionalities and performance.
Retro Comparison: If you want a retro 6.1 perspective on the differences between Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional and Standard, give Adam’s article a read here at pocketnow.com.