Is Windows Mobile 6.5 worth getting excited about?

The software giant keeps teasing us with reports of an upgrade -- but is it just smoke and mirrors?

Last week, Palm fans began gearing up for the Pre's official release date, iPhone fans debated a possible switch in carriers, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile blog posted an ambiguously worded entry that appeared to announce the release of Windows Mobile 6.5.

Since corrected, the initial memo seemed to reveal that the heavily anticipated OS upgrade would launch on opening day of Microsoft's TechEd 2009 event. The blog now reads: "This Tech Ed 2009 session focuses on Windows Mobile 6.5 ... with a cool demo and an outline of great stuff to come."

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Microsoft is not only competing against Apple's upcoming iPhone 3.0, but also Palm's approaching release of the Pre and webOS, and (potentially) the introduction of several Android handsets before the year is out. Early comments from those who have been running beta versions of WiMo 6.5 are lukewarm. Some have noted improvements in speed and battery life, but that 6.5 is mostly eye candy (which might actually work in WiMo's favor, if iPhone sales are any indication).

WiMo 6.5 has been specifically designed to work with with touchscreen handsets; Internet Explorer Mobile has also become touch-friendly. Are touchscreen capabilities enough to justify releasing 6.5 instead of including them with -- and focusing on -- Windows Mobile 7? Are there enough improvements in this upgrade to keep Windows Mobile handset users in the forefront of smartphone technology, or will 6.5 be blown out of the water by webOS? If WiMo 7 really is just around the corner, maybe 6.5 is just hype to keep Microsoft on our minds while Palm, iPhone, and Android make the big waves. Although Windows Mobile 7 is expected to arrive next year, who knows how long it will take, given the way Microsoft has has dragged its feet on 6.5?

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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