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By Chris De Herrera 
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Windows Mobile 5.0 Overview
By Chris De Herrera, Copyright 2005
 Version 1.00  Revised 6/12/2005

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With Windows Mobile 5.0 Microsoft has focused on refining the existing concept of the Pocket PC and Smartphone. Rich Hall covered the high level changes in his article “First Look… Windows Mobile 5.0” Pocket PC Magazine, July 2005. This article expands on the new features of Windows Mobile 5.0 based on working with it.

Visual Changes to the User Interface

Microsoft decided to make a variety of changes to the Windows Mobile 5.0 user interface. Some of these changes are to streamline the design between the Pocket PC and Smartphone versions. An example of this is the decision to implement the soft input buttons on the Pocket PC. This makes the Pocket PC and Smartphone user interface look similar.

Further the decision with Windows Mobile 5.0  to supports the square screens and 320 x 240 (QVGA) Smartphone displays so applications designed for the QVGA Pocket PC screens will look the same on both devices. However this does not mean that the Smartphone and Pocket PC versions of Windows Mobile 5.0 applications have the same features and functions even though the screen sizes are the same.

Also, the menuing functionality in the applications has had to change to accommodate the introduction of the soft input buttons. The menus can now have submenus that appear when you select a menu option. The new submenus overlap the existing menus so the user knows to click on an option displayed and not overlapped. See below.

Finally you will notice that the ok and X button were redesigned. The ok and X are in a offset colored box in the upper right hand corner. However the buttons still perform the smart minimize of the application. Also, on the Today screen you will see that Microsoft has chosen to go with a new icon which looks like a person in lieu of the Contacts icon. Also, the option to open new calendar, contacts, tasks items, etc has been removed.

Microsoft has also added additional languages to Windows Mobile 5.0. The Pocket PC has added support for Czech, Danish, Dutch, European Portuguese, Finnish, Greek Norwegian, Polish, Russian and Swedish. For the Smartphone, Greek is now supported. These new languages allow OEMs to create an optimized device for regional markets.

Application Changes and Additions

With Word Mobile, Microsoft has focused on allowing the user to edit files and retain the original formatting of the document. This allows you to receive a Word document and edit it in Word Mobile and then synchronize or send it back to a desktop and the headers, footers, tables, etc will be retained even if they are not visible or editable on the Pocket PC.

In Excel Mobile, Microsoft added the ability to create and edit charts. These charts are synchronized to your desktop as well. However unlike Word Mobile, any formatting or add-ins that are not supported in Excel Mobile will be deleted when you save a file. Microsoft has added a prompt to remind users of the potential loss of formatting so they have the option to save the file under another name.

With Internet Explorer Mobile, there is now a download progress bar. The download progress bar is displayed whenever any content (including html) is downloaded from the server. This allows you to see that you are making progress downloading the website while you wait on slower speed connections such as GPRS.

With the Pocket PC Phone Edition, you can now specify custom ring tones per contact. This will allow you to know who’s calling before even looking at the screen of your phone.

Hardware Changes

Persistent Storage

One of the core experiences that was painful for users of the Pocket PC was when the battery was fully depleted and they would lose their information. With Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC your data is stored in flash memory so if your battery goes dead you won’t lose your saved data. However if you are working on an application in RAM and don’t save your data it will be lost. For applications such as Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Inbox, the data is saved automatically when you access it. Further this design change means that your ram is no longer shared between storing and executing programs so if you fill the ram up, a soft reset will allow you to operate your device even if the flash storage is full.

Support for Internal Hard Disks

One of the new features with Windows Mobile 5.0 is the support for devices to have internal hard disks. This means that you can now store many gigabytes of video or audio files on your SmartPhone or Pocket PC without using up a memory slot. As an example of this type of device, Samsung introduced the SGH-i300 Smartphone which has a 3GB hard disk built in. I expect that we will see additional devices in the future with built in hard disks as well.

Enhanced Bluetooth Support

Microsoft has enhanced their Bluetooth drivers and stack to support additional profiles. The Bluetooth stereo headset and keyboard profiles are now supported so you can use a Bluetooth keyboard for data entry.

Smartphone Wi-Fi Support

Now the Smartphone has Wi-Fi support just like the Pocket PC did with Windows Mobile Second Edition. This will allow device manufacturers to build a Smartphone that can roam between cellular and Wi-Fi networks for sending and receiving voice calls and data.

ActiveSync 4.0

Microsoft has been reworking ActiveSync to provide a better user experience. With ActiveSync 4.0, you can now synchronize with your Pocket PC 2002, Windows Mobile 2003 and Smartphone 2002, 2003 and 2003 Second Edition as well as Windows Mobile 5.0. Microsoft has removed some functionality from ActiveSync such as network (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, GPRS or dial-up) synchronization and file conversion. The network synchronization was removed to address security concerns regarding your data. There is a workaround to re-add file conversion for Pocket Word to your desktop. If you install ActiveSync 3.8 and then upgrade to ActiveSync 4.0, you can still convert Pocket Word documents on your PC.

ActiveSync now supports synchronization of your video and audio files. This allows you to specify what files are sent to your Pocket PC or Smartphone and they will be synchronized the next time you plug in your device. You’ll find the Download Agent on your Pocket PC allows you to see the new video or audio content you have downloaded from your desktop.

Finally Microsoft has improved the status and error handling in ActiveSync 4.0. Also, they have added better international character support for contacts as well.

Beyond the Hardware – Using the Windows Mobile 5.0 Emulator!

Microsoft has also decided to offer a fully functional version of Windows Mobile 5.0 as an emulator on your PC. Although the emulator was designed for developers it is really handy for users to get an idea what Windows Mobile 5.0 looks and feels like. The emulator allows you to run Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC (QVGA, VGA and Square screen) as well as Smartphone (Original, QVGA). You can even sync with ActiveSync 4.0 and install ARM based applications in the emulator. You can even configure the emulator to support internet access and capture print screens of the applications in use. I personally found the emulator quite helpful in understanding the changes that Microsoft made with Windows Mobile 5.0. Also, I found that using my Acer C301 Tablet PC was very effective with the emulator. I was able to use the stylus of the Tablet PC in the emulator the same way I use the stylus on the Pocket PC including handwriting recognition for Transcriber! The Tablet PC is a great way to experience the Pocket PC and Smartphone especially for users attempting to understand the user experience of the devices.

Microsoft Exchange Push Support

One of the announcements at Tech Ed on June 6th was the Message and Security Feature Pack for Windows Mobile 5.0. This feature pack adds push based e-mail support as well as centralized security to Exchange 2003 for the Pocket PC and Smartphone. Push based e-mail has been a differentiating factor for the BlackBerry and now Exchange 2003 users will have it for free in 4th quarter 2005. Also, there are additional features for Exchange synchronization including the ability for users to submit address book queries to Exchange to have a co-worker's contact information sent to their device. Microsoft now has added support for synchronizing Tasks with Exchange. Also, Microsoft has added compression of all data synchronized via Exchange to optimize the wireless connectivity of mobile devices. Finally, IT staff will now have better security control over devices including the ability to set and enforce password policies or erase all the data stored on lost or stolen devices. This functionality will be added for Exchange 2003 when Service Pack 2 is installed.

Conclusion

I am very happy to see the changes in Word Mobile and the addition of PowerPoint Mobile as well as the unique ring tones per contact. Overall Microsoft has really focused on smoothing out the rougher edges of the end user experience with Windows Mobile 5.0.

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