Windows Mobile 6--Microsoft's generally modest update of its operating system for handheld devices and smart phones--will debut by midyear with enhancements for e-mail and editing of Office documents.
Previously known by the code name Crossbow, Windows Mobile 6 simplifies e-mail account setup and also provides new shortcuts to a multitude of common e-mail management tasks such as replying to all or deleting a message.
You can flag messages more easily, as well as view a history of activity (calls and text messages) with contacts in your address book. In addition, you can read messages formatted in HTML, where applicable.
The three core applications in Office--Word, Excel, and PowerPoint--more faithfully re-create and preserve desktop formatting in the new OS. And now you can edit data in an Excel spreadsheet (you still can't create formulas or new spreadsheets, though). Borrowing from Office 2007, the calendar has a vaguely ribbonlike interface that shows your free time. It also checks for schedule conflicts whenever you receive a meeting invitation.
Windows Mobile 6 supports some Windows Live services, including Windows Live Messenger. If your business works with Exchange Server 2007, you'll find some useful improvements, such as the ability to search your mail folder.
Microsoft says that people will be able to upgrade certain Windows Mobile 5 devices to the new version. HP's first line of iPaq smart phones, the 500 series Voice Messengers, will be based on Windows Mobile 6.
Previous versions of Windows Mobile provided more functionality for Pocket PCs than for phones with keypads, but those distinctions are now largely gone. However, Microsoft will still offer two editions of Windows Mobile 6, based on a handheld's screen type: a standard version intended for devices that don't have touch screens, and Windows Mobile 6 Pro for devices equipped with touch screens and styluses.
New face for tiny PCs
High hardware prices put a bit of a damper on the first generation of Ultra Mobile PCs. Despite this slow start, Microsoft says it remains committed to the platform, and as hardware manufacturers work on new products, the software giant continues to improve applications for the devices. Here's a look at its most recent effort: a program launcher called "Origami Experience" included in the version of Windows Vista that runs on UMPCs (click on the thumbnail image for a full view).