Microsoft recently released the next version of the Windows Mobile platform, Windows Mobile 5.0. Notice that there is a slight change in naming convention. Instead of calling it Windows Mobile 2005 (as it was previously Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, Windows Mobile 2003, Pocket PC 2002, Pocket PC 2000) it goes with the version number of the operating system, which is Windows CE .NET 5.0 in this incarnation.
So, what's cool in this release? In this article, I will show you some of the new features in Windows Mobile 5.0.
At the moment, Windows Mobile 5.0 devices are scarce, but major manufacturers of Pocket PCs like Dell and HP have announced plans to release upgrades for specific models. However, if you want to experience the new Windows Mobile 5.0 without buying additional hardware, you can download the Windows Mobile 5.0 SDK from Microsoft's website. However, you need to have Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2. The SDK contains everything you need to try Windows Mobile 5.0 on an emulator. You can even write mobile applications using the new platform.
While there are a couple of new features in Windows Mobile 5.0 at the system level, such as new managed and native APIs, I will restrict my review in this article to the user experience in Windows Mobile 5.0.
On first look, the Today screen of Windows Mobile looks similar to that of the current version (see Figure 1). However, if you look closer, you will see that the menu on the bottom of the screen is gone. Instead, it now has two "soft buttons."
Figure 1. The Today screens of Windows Mobile 2005 and Windows Mobile 5.0
In the current version of Windows Mobile 2003, the number of menu items at the bottom of the screen is dependent on the application; some applications have more, while some have less. In Windows Mobile 5.0, there are at most three soft buttons at the bottom of the screen, with the middle toggling the soft input panel (virtual keyboard) (see Figure 2). The new UI design is more consistent and closely resembles that of a Smartphone.
Figure 2. Three soft buttons at the bottom of the page
The user interface of Smartphones running Windows Mobile 5.0 now looks more like a Pocket PC than a phone. Figure 3 shows the UI for a Smartphone 2003 device, versus that of Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone.
Figure 3. The Smartphone Start screen in Smartphone 2003 and Windows Mobile 5.0
Windows Mobile 5.0 now ships with the new Pocket MSN client that is comprised of MSN Messenger, MSN Hotmail, as well as a direct link to MSN Mobile Home page (see Figure 4).
Figure 4. The Pocket MSN Client
Instead of accessing your emails via Outlook and/or other POP/IMAP4 mail servers, you can now access your Hotmail through Windows Mobile 5.0. Figure 5 shows the messages in my Hotmail account downloaded onto the Pocket PC.
Figure 5. Reading Hotmail on Windows Mobile 5.0
When messages containing attachments are received, only the text component of the message is first downloaded. Attachments are only downloaded the next time you connect to the mail server (see Figure 6). This allows you to avoid downloading potentially large attachments (which is costly if you are using a GPRS network, for example) without your consent (especially spam messages). If you do not want to download a particular attachment, simply delete the message.
Figure 6. Attachments are only downloaded the next time you send/receive mail.
Like its Pocket PC counterpart, the Smartphone also includes the MSN client (see Figure 7), which allows you to check for emails and chat while on the road.
Figure 7. The MSN Client in Smartphone
The Contacts application in Windows Mobile 5.0 has been enhanced (see Figure 8). Icons are now displayed next to a person's particulars. Also, you can now attach a photo to a contact (which can be done easily if your Pocket PC has a built-in camera). If your Pocket PC phone edition device supports Caller ID, the photo of the person will be displayed every time he or she calls. Also, the photo will be displayed whenever an email from him or her arrives.
Figure 8. The Contacts application
The features just discussed are also supported in the Smartphone (see Figure 9).
Figure 9. Contacts in Smartphone
Pocket Word is now known as Word Mobile (see Figure 10). In fact, Microsoft has dropped the "Pocket" name from most of its applications (see examples in the next few sections).
Figure 10. Word Mobile in Windows Mobile 5.0
One improvement to Word Mobile is its ability to display inline images. Figure 11 shows a word document received via Hotmail and then opened using Word Mobile. Instead of displaying a box with a cross in it (as in Pocket Word in Windows Mobile 2003), it displays the inline image.
Figure 11. Displaying an image in a Word document
Pocket Excel is now known as Excel Mobile. With Excel Mobile, you can now display a variety of charts in your spreadsheet (see Figure 12).
Figure 12. Displaying charts in Excel Mobile
PowerPoint Mobile (see Figure 13) is a new application in Windows Mobile 5.0.
Figure 13. PowerPoint Mobile in Windows Mobile 5.0
Instead of relying on third-party applications to view PowerPoint slides, you can now use the PowerPoint Mobile (see Figure 14).
Figure 14. Viewing PowerPoint slides using PowerPoint Mobile in Windows Mobile 5.0
Figure 15. New progress bar for IE
IE now supports three view options: Default, One Column, and Desktop. You can also switch to full screen for more viewing estate, which hides the title bar and the soft buttons. Figure 16 shows the various viewing options.
Figure 16. Default, One-Column, and Full-Screen Views
To view web pages, it is useful to switch to landscape mode so that you can better view them on your monitor. Figure 17 shows the difference between the default and desktop views.
Figure 17. Default and desktop views (landscape mode)
IE also supports image saving (see Figure 18).
Figure 18. Saving images in IE
Besides the many enhancements covered in this article, there are many other new features in Windows Mobile 5.0. They are:
Over the next few months, you should be able to see more devices in the market running the new Windows Mobile 5.0 platform. I will be covering more on the new platform in the near future, as soon as I get my hands on the new devices! But for now, check out your device manufacturers' website and see if they offer an upgrade for your device.
Wei-Meng Lee (Microsoft MVP) http://weimenglee.blogspot.com is a technologist and founder of Developer Learning Solutions http://www.developerlearningsolutions.com, a technology company specializing in hands-on training on the latest Microsoft technologies.
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