At CTIA Microsoft announced the latest update for Windows Mobile, the 6.1 version. This new version of Windows Mobile brings some welcome updates to the platform, but none of them are too revolutionary.
The default home screen has been revamped a bit and has a new, more liquid style to it. You can quickly jump up and down to your various different departments such as messaging and your calendar. Using the D-pad, you can scroll through messages or calendar entries by moving left or right. This makes accessing simple information much quicker and easier than the current generation of Windows Mobile.
This new "default" home screen with easy four-way navigation may be the out-of-the-box default on some devices, but as usual, carriers and manufacturers will be free to customize it or make their own default home screen for each device. Regardless, Microsoft is requiring that their new "default" home screen remain an option on each 6.1 device, so if you like what they've done with the place, you can always choose this option over whatever the carrier may shipped it with.
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WinMo 6.1 also brings aboard threaded messaging. It will lump all the messages to and from your contacts into one place so you can see all the messages exchanged with that person.
It offers a new "Getting Started Center", which is basically a simplified tool for helping new users set up their phones. This includes things such as email account set up and other configurations.
One of the biggest improvements will be a fully changed up version of Internet Explorer Mobile. The version that will ship initially with version 6.1 of the OS has significant navigation and rendering improvements.
Later in the year, Microsoft will release yet another version of the browser that will add support for Adobe Flash and Silverlight to offer full HTML browsing with the ability to watch embedded media. The demonstrations we saw were quite good for both new browser versions.
This new version of WinMo looks nice, and a lot of these features a long overdue, but the OS won't be available to most users until mid-year or later. All of today's current WinMo 6 phones can technically support the upgrade to 6.1, if carriers and/or manufacturers choose to offer it. However not all phones can support the newest version of Internet Explorer, which has different hardware requirements to support Flash and Silverlight.
Once you get past the initial screens, however, WinMo 6.1 begins to look very familiar. Many of the base menus are nearly identical in structure, layout and function. Even so, once your device is fully configured, using the newer top-level interface is much nicer than 6.0.
Here is a video tour of the new platform in action:
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