MIX09: Windows Mobile 6.5 shows more polish

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During the opening day of Microsoft’s MIX09 conference yesterday, Loke Uei Tan – senior product manager for Windows Mobile gave a presentation titled “Windows Mobile 6.5 overview” where he showed off one of the latest builds of the OS running on a HTC Touch Pro.

This 3-minute long demo includes sights of the new chrome (lists, scrollbar, menu), lock screen, Today screen and Start menu, all of which seems to be more polished than earlier demos at the Mobile World Congress announcement. Performance seems to be much improved and the UI seems more responsive.

The honeycomb Start menu has also been visually tweaked – the honeycomb background removed but the layout remains. Update: I want to reinforce the fact that the honeycomb pattern is not gone, and its benefits over a square layout remains. The scrolling of the honeycomb has also been enhanced to stop at every page-break instead of continuing with kinetic motion.

Initially I was skeptical of how Windows Mobile 6.5 will play out, but all the improvements in user-experience WM6.5 seems to provide should be at least an adequate stop-gap measure until the real revolution arrives with Windows Mobile 7.

On a related note, the presentation confirmed that the new Windows Marketplace for Mobile will apply application updates directly on the device. However it also appears application updates will require developers to resubmit their application for approval which would then cost a submission token or fee and take time to process. This too makes me nervous about the Mobile Marketplace.

39 insightful thoughts

  1. Better. Not good, but better. They still really need to fix the tap-zones for the top and bottom menu, and the stability and speed is just plain old inadequate – but that is nothing new for winmo users.

  2. Wow, that looks great… If only Symbian could come up with something as attractive as that, then I wouldn’t have to decide between Windows Mobile or a Nokia 97

  3. I think the fact they’re running WM6.5 on a Touch Pro!! Supposedly a phone thats officially NOT on the list for running WM6.5.

    One thing I don’t “get” is the “mixed UI” message… to put it basically; on one screen it looks like a Zune with vertical text and on the next you have the hex UI. I think it should be one or the other and personally I think it should be the hex UI. It works very well, although there are a couple of changes I’d like to see.

    @alirobe – you can easily increase the size of the curtains. Microsoft just chooses not to do it for whatever reason they have. I have increased the sizes on my Touch Pro along with the font sizes for the menus as well. Due to these changes, I never need to use a stylus at all.

  4. “some of our users said the honeycomb UI doesn’t work that well so we made the icons bigger and dropped the honeycomb interface… also you will notice that the list view is now finger friendly so you can flick the list to scroll…” … hm… looks like after they do a bit more “research” they might end up with something that looks remarkably like??? you guessed it the iPhone UIView.

    BTW… can’t you tether a Windows Mobile phone so it’s display is directly projected on a screen?

    Look, don’t get me wrong. I would love for Microsoft to come up with something that puts a bit of fire under Apple’s butt. Nothing worse than the lack of competition. If it wasn’t for OS X we still would be using Windows 2000. But Windows Mobil 6.5 hasn’t shown anything that I would even slightly get excited about.

    I think it’s telling when the presenter asked “this is cool right” expecting the audience to break out in a cheering whoho (like you might have seen in presentations by that Cupterino company)… only to be greeted by a luke warm “whatever response”.

    I think I’ll wait till Windows Mobile 7 and make up my mind then wether it’s worth developing for that platform. In the meantime I’ll stick with the Apple iPhone OS and their walled garden but keep collecting my sales dollars.

  5. @tom – I agree theres nothing in 6.5 thats “amazing” or “cool”. I would hope that Microsoft also knows this… lets hope so :-)

    Yes you can tether WM to do that (especially the Touch Pro) but as with much of that presentation, their preparation left a bit to be desired IMHO.

    WM6.5 is a stop gap measure and *hopefully* WM7 running on Tegra hardware will be the ultra cool factor.

  6. Tom,

    First, remember WM outsold iPhone in Q4, and every WM phone sold is one less iPhone sold, so WM IS competition to the iPhone.

    Secondly, in many parts of Europe the Samsung Omnia outsold the iPhone, like Germany for example. Again competition.

    Thirdly, if it was not for Windows Mobile, do you think the iPhone would have gotten A2DP, native 3rd party apps or even cut and paste?

    And lastly, you must be a pretty stupid developer if you prefer being a small fish in the giant iPhone pond than a big fish in the new Windows Mobile MarketPlace, which will be resetting the application count almost back to zero again. I guess you like competing against 26 000 ifart apps.

  7. Surur, every WM sold gives MS what, $20. Every iPhone sale gives Apple $600. Stop believing in the market share myth. At the end of the day cold hard cash is what matters and why Motorolas 13% share means nothing when they are hemorrhaging cash.

    I also note that the very thing I was criticised for last month on this blog (pages being superior to one long scroll list for muscle memory), has been implemented by MS. Good move. The latter model sucked.

  8. @Journalist

    I hope your powers of observations are normally better than at present, as in this case I was arguing that the smaller pond it better.

    Lets look again:
    “you must be a pretty stupid developer if you prefer being a small fish in the giant iPhone pond than a big fish in the new Windows Mobile MarketPlace, which will be resetting the application count almost back to zero again. I guess you like competing against 26 000 ifart apps.”

    Clearly being amongst the first 500 apps in MarketPlace will be good for a developer, rather than being the 27001th iFlashlight app.

    Unless you were referring in some way to Microsoft’s financiasl vs Apple’s, which is hardly relevant to anything we are discussing.

  9. As a WM user for 5 years, and a current WM6.5 dogfooder, I’m loving the new OS. It is definitely improving build-to-build, and is *much* better for touch users that any previous version.

  10. thanks for the comments guys! Yes there are places where can improve and we are doing it everyday. and for that note about “that’s cool”, I guess a lot of the attendees there had iPhones 😉

    don’t you just hate those moments…

  11. I have been begging MS for years to implement the Zune UI on the homescreen of WinMo, it is one of the best UI in the market. They ported it to the vista media center and now winmo, it’s about time!!!!!!

  12. @Sursur

    “you must be a pretty stupid developer if you prefer being a small fish in the giant iPhone pond than a big fish in the new Windows Mobile MarketPlace, which will be resetting the application count almost back to zero again. I guess you like competing against 26 000 ifart apps.

    Clearly being amongst the first 500 apps in MarketPlace will be good for a developer, rather than being the 27001th iFlashlight app.”

    How long do you think it will take before the Windows Mobile Market is complete flooded with 500 versions of the same type of application. I’ll give it 2 weeks.

    In addition, until I see the mobile marketplace actually working and in action I’ll reserve my judgement. Until then I’ll keep making money from apps in the Apple apps store.

    As for the argument that Windows mobile phones outsold the Iphone in Q4 and therefore there are more phones and potential customers in the market place…

    1) half of those phone lack any form of advanced feature such as GPS, multi touch screen

    2) half of those phones are soo underpowered trying to run any application other than iFart or iFlashlight will bring it to it’s knees.

  13. one more thing… I think the Windows Mobile IE Flash demo illustrates why some of the other competitors don’t believe there is much sense in providing in-browser support for Flash on a mobile device at the moment. The performance really lacks in opinion.

  14. “1) half of those phone lack any form of advanced feature such as GPS, multi touch screen”
    Care to give a list?

    “2) half of those phones are soo underpowered trying to run any application other than iFart or iFlashlight will bring it to it’s knees.”
    This is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever read here.

    “one more thing… I think the Windows Mobile IE Flash demo illustrates why some of the other competitors don’t believe there is much sense in providing in-browser support for Flash on a mobile device at the moment. The performance really lacks in opinion.”
    It’s not the browser. It’s the device. Secondly, people want that functionality.

  15. “It’s not the browser. It’s the device.”
    To the end user there is now difference between browser or device… they would say it’s too slow.

    “Secondly, people want that functionality.”
    Ever seen the Simpsons episode were Homer designs a car which includes all the features and functionality he wants in a car? I agree that you need to listen to your customers but you also need to make sure that the customer experience is great.

  16. “To the end user there is now difference between browser or device… they would say it’s too slow.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH_9RweAYyA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpocketnow%2Ecom%2Findex%2Ephp%3Fs%3D2&feature=player_embedded

    “I agree that you need to listen to your customers but you also need to make sure that the customer experience is great.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH_9RweAYyA&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpocketnow%2Ecom%2Findex%2Ephp%3Fs%3D2&feature=player_embedded

    “Very very nice implementation of flash support in Internet Explorer for Windows mobile”

  17. “Very very nice implementation of flash support in Internet Explorer for Windows mobile”
    go to smh.com.au with a Flash Enabled mobile browser and see if a) you actually manage to load the entire page without everything slowing to snails pace and b) the constant scrolling around the screen drives you insane… oh please make sure it’s not the crippled mobile site but their actual internet site.

  18. Looks good. Altho…my main problem with WinMo and touchscreen device still is….responsiveness ! Its clear that navigation still lacks that smoothness and responsiveness the Iphone has (an example) – theres still quite a bit of lag. Without owning an Iphone (and generally not liking Apples products), i must say that this one feature needs to work great for me.

  19. @wreid,

    “Sorry but, I have no reason to do that since I don’t live in Australia and thus care not for Australian news.”

    I guess ignorance is bliss…

  20. All of this polish seems like too little too late.
    @Surur: What is MSFT offering for the developer to make their job easier? Are they releasing new APIs? Are they releasing new frameworks libraries developers can leverage? People can argue all day about the walled garden until the cows come home but the facts show that people are buying apps on the Apple appstore in droves and some developers are making a lot of money.

    Microsoft started out with a decent idea years ago when they first released windows CE/Mobile but they seem to have lost their way.

    Apple not only provides rich developer tools for free but a rich set of application frameworks to make developing certain features a snap. They also offer a low barrier for entry by only charging 99 dollars per year and publishing free applications for free on their store. These factors are what is driving the exodus away from Windows mobile and the new 3.0 release will offer even more apis for developers to make use of.

    Microsoft needs to stop focusing on cosmetic changes and start working on creating useful apis and controls for third-party developers to use. A good start would be to release what they currently use for Windows mobile and IE for windows mobile as published APIs and controls for developers to use in their own apps.

  21. @Aristotles
    You seemed to have missed the widget platform, which is certainly a new, but industry compliant, development for windows mobile which will in fact make life easier for developers. In addition there are other developments like Silverlight Mobile on the way which will be useful as a presentation layer.
    http://blogs.msdn.com/giorgio/archive/2008/04/06/silverlight-for-mobile-todayscreen-plugin.aspx

    So yes, in fact new api’s are coming to Windows Mobile.

  22. @Surur: Silverlight is no more an native API for Windows mobile than Flash would be. It is just another language that you can use but there is no additional exposed functionality from the OS that one can target as one normally would with the standard SDK. You seem to be confused as to what platform API is.

    Widget platform? Oh, you mean web apps packaged in a zip file. Again, that offers no additional functionality from Microsoft to build native apps quickly that leverage new features in Windows Mobile 6.5. You have to either write your own javascript or leverage third-party libraries but either way a lot of coding is involved just to setup a working UI prototype. Widgets have been around for a long time and are no substitute for real applications/games.

    Microsoft supplies a very bare bones environment and does not seem to be willing to share their libraries and controls with their community. Developers are forced to either license code/controls from third-parties at additional cost or build their own and neither of these solutions contribute to UI behaviour/appearance consistency and are a barrier for entry into the market for startups.

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