CTIA, one of the wireless industry’s biggest conferences of the year, is happening this week in Las Vegas and Microsoft is garnering the most headlines. Why? It officially announced Windows Mobile 6.1, which is expected to hit the market "within the next couple of months." Forrester received a hands-on preview of it a couple of weeks ago and we couldn’t help but leave the meeting feeling like Microsoft’s playing catch-up to superior handheld device user experience providers like Apple and RIM. Still, it’s a good sign that Microsoft is focused on simplifying the user experience moving forward.
Microsoft has been heads down for years keeping IT happy and it’s been pretty successful given that 54% of the 531 North American businesses we recently surveyed support Windows Mobile-powered smartphones. However, Microsoft is now facing pressure to improve the user experience so that it’s pleasant for workers’ personal lives as well as their professional lives. The biggest changes that Windows Mobile 6.1 will bring include a more PC-like browsing experience, threaded SMS conversations, improved search, and simpler navigation (e.g., an improved home page and one-tap connection to a wireless network).
These experience improvements are clearly evolutionary rather than revolutionary. But Windows Mobile 6.1 proves two things:
- Microsoft can deliver a new mobile operating system on schedule approximately once per year.
- Bringing a better browsing experience to handhelds is going to be a big step for Microsoft and one that its users will embrace. Unfortunately, existing users will have to wait until Q3 to upgrade their browser and those looking to replace their devices altogether will have to wait for the end of the year before they come standard with the new IE Mobile browser.
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