Microsoft is ready to announce Windows Mobile 6, a software update until recently codenamed Crossbow. The software is the base for the company's mobile platform, which in its current version includes devices with such names as Windows Mobile Pocket PC, Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition and Windows Mobile Smartphone.
Many users are not aware of the differences between these platforms. And manufacturers don't help. For example Palm sells the Treo 750v, Treo 750, Treo 700w and Treo 700wx all as "smartphones", when in fact they run the Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition operating system.
The distinction is important, because software developed for Pocket PCs won't run on Smartphones. Mainly because of the different user interface, and because Pocket PCs have a touchscreen, which is lacking on the Smartphones.
Don't worry. The naming convention is just about to get more confusing. The new version will introduce some very interesting features, but also a new series of names.
The name changes will be like this:
Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone becomes Windows Mobile 6 Standard
Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC Phone Edition becomes Windows Mobile 6 Professional
Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC becomes Windows Mobile 6 Classic
As for making the differentiation between a PDA and a smartphone, Microsoft is set to make it clear that if there's some phone functionality, it is a smartphone. So devices based on either Windows Mobile 6 Standard or Windows Mobile 6 Professional will be known as Windows Mobile powered SmartphoneM, while devices based on Windows Mobile 6 Classic will be known as Windows Mobile powered PDAM.
This move solves the naming convention problems, but does it solve the compatibility problem? No, not all. Windows Mobile 6 is not about converging the platforms into a single executable code, so users will need to pay attention when buying software. A Windows Mobile powered smartphone can be running Windows Mobile 6 Standard (previously Smartphone) or Windows Mobile 6 Professional (previously Pocket PC Phone Edition). So be careful.
As for the actual innovations, Windows Mobile 6 introduces many features. Startting with a new visual for its user interface, closer to that on Windows Vista, with more polished elements on the screen.
The built-in email client now supports HTML email, even on POP accounts. Office Mobile is now included with Windows Mobile 6 Standard, a new calendar ribbon in the calendar application that makes it easier to see free/busy time, Windows Live client that integrates Windows Live Messenger and Windows Live Mail and Internet Sharing, to allow the device to be used as a modem through networking instead of the (until now standard) DUN profile (just wait for firewall nightmare when configure the network).