Windows Mobile 6 to get built-in Office

Windows Mobile 6 will include Microsoft Office, as well as access to IM and email

Microsoft is likely to introduce the next version of its mobile operating system at the 3GSM show in Barcelona next week. The long-awaited version 6 of Microsoft Windows Mobile features both Microsoft Office and SQL Server , and has enhanced search and security features compared to the previous version.

It's a pretty impressive package Microsoft has put together. Built into Windows Mobile 6 is Microsoft Outlook , Microsoft Word , Microsoft Excel , and Microsoft PowerPoint , as well as SQL Server and . Net Compact Framework in down-sized, mobile versions.

The operating system also supports Windows Live Messenger and email, so users can access their IM, and Hotmail / Windows Live Mail messages on the go. Microsoft is claiming the new operating system will show a 30 per cent increase in speed for mobile Internet Explorer , compared to the previous version.

Search functions have been improved as well. Users will now be able to type in the first few letters of a song, contact name, or email address and have the phone automatically display search results matching the query.

The platform, previously named Microsoft Pocket PC Phone Edition, for touch screens, has become Windows Mobile 6 Professional, while the Smartphone non-touch screen version is called Windows Mobile 6 Standard. Pocket PCs are now Windows Mobile Classic, and work on PDAs without phone capabilities.

Professional tools

The first handsets featuring Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 are due this summer, although no manufacturer or operator announcements have been made yet. The idea is that handsets will work as "professional tools". With this in mind, Microsoft promises that syncing handsets with content from Microsoft Outlook and other business systems will be "easier than ever".

The security functions have also been beefed up. Functions where administrators can wipe handsets remotely are featured, and the content of a device's memory card can be protected and encrypted. Companies can set policies demanding that passwords are changed on a regular basis, and passwords themselves require a certain level of complexity (i.e. no 'password' or '12345678').

On the entertainment side, Microsoft has made it easier - at least for those running Windows Vista - to transfer images, music, and videos from computer to handset.

Windows Mobile 6 uses the same core, Windows CE 5, as the previous Windows Mobile 5 operating system. Consequently, the new version is expected to work with existing Windows Mobile 5 applications.

"We hope to be 100 per cent compatible," said John O'Rourke, a general manager in Microsoft's mobile and embedded devices unit. "If an application works in Windows Mobile 5, it should work on Windows Mobile 6."

New features in Windows Mobile 6 include:

  • HTML support in email
  • Windows Live for Windows Mobile
  • File transfer capability in Windows Live Messenger
  • New versions of mobile Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with rich editing
  • Remote wipe capability for lost and stolen devices
  • Call history in contact cards
  • Windows Vista integration
  • 'Calendar ribbon' for easy viewing schedule by day or week
  • New versions of .Net Compact Framework and SQL Server built-in

Microsoft is likely to unveil more details about Windows Mobile 6 at next week's 3GSM show, from where we will be reporting live.