Microsoft has announced improvements to Windows Mobile, including a plan to add desktop-browsing quality seen in Internet Explorer 6 for new smart phones by the end of the year.
The new version of IE Mobile will make it easier to pan and zoom through Web pages and to access the Web at the outset from a phone, said John Traynor, senior director of mobile communications at Microsoft. "It's going to be much closer to the desktop experience," he said.
IE 6 technologies such as Adobe Flash, H. 264 video and Microsoft Silverlight will be added to the new IE Mobile, Microsoft said.
Other innovations being announced at the CTIA Wireless 2008 event include a 6.1 version of Windows Mobile, the first update since 6.0 was announced in February 2007. It should appear on phones in the second half of the year and will offer quicker phone setup and one-click setup of a Bluetooth headset. In addition, users will find it easier to flag, delete or move groups of text messages, Traynor said.
For IT managers, the biggest improvement Microsoft announced is System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, available immediately through mobile operators. When used with Windows Mobile 6.1 devices, IT managers can bring more management functions and security to Windows Mobile phones than are currently possible, Traynor said.
Previously, IT managers had to rely on ActiveSync in Microsoft Exchange to manage Windows Mobile phones, Traynor said. Device Manager 2008 provides more than 100 management capabilities not previously available, he said. Details, including pricing, were not released.
Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner, said the new management capabilities will keep Windows Mobile among the most secure and manageable devices on the market, along with BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion. It will help Windows Mobile keep a management advantage over the iPhone, he added, noting that it takes management beyond what will be available in ActiveSync through Exchange.
With Windows Mobile 6.1, Microsoft is taking the steps needed to strengthen its offering to both consumers and enterprise customers, said analyst Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies. "With 6.1, they have made some appealing updates to the user interface and Web browsing that appeal to a broader consumer audience as well," he said.
"In a market where the consumers are becoming increasingly important, and Apple and RIM are clearly going after both, Microsoft has no choice but to continue to strengthen its presence and product appeal to anyone considering a new mobile device," Bajarin said.