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What's New in Windows Mobile 5.0?

by Wei-Meng Lee

Microsoft recently released the next version of the Windows Mobile platform, Windows Mobile 5.0. Notice that there is a slight change in naming convention. Instead of calling it Windows Mobile 2005 (as it was previously Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, Windows Mobile 2003, Pocket PC 2002, Pocket PC 2000) it goes with the version number of the operating system, which is Windows CE .NET 5.0 in this incarnation.

So, what's cool in this release? In this article, I will show you some of the new features in Windows Mobile 5.0.

Trying Windows Mobile 5.0

At the moment, Windows Mobile 5.0 devices are scarce, but major manufacturers of Pocket PCs like Dell and HP have announced plans to release upgrades for specific models. However, if you want to experience the new Windows Mobile 5.0 without buying additional hardware, you can download the Windows Mobile 5.0 SDK from Microsoft's website. However, you need to have Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2. The SDK contains everything you need to try Windows Mobile 5.0 on an emulator. You can even write mobile applications using the new platform.

While there are a couple of new features in Windows Mobile 5.0 at the system level, such as new managed and native APIs, I will restrict my review in this article to the user experience in Windows Mobile 5.0.

User Interface Enhancements

On first look, the Today screen of Windows Mobile looks similar to that of the current version (see Figure 1). However, if you look closer, you will see that the menu on the bottom of the screen is gone. Instead, it now has two "soft buttons."

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Today screens of Windows Mobile 2005 and Windows Mobile 5.0

In the current version of Windows Mobile 2003, the number of menu items at the bottom of the screen is dependent on the application; some applications have more, while some have less. In Windows Mobile 5.0, there are at most three soft buttons at the bottom of the screen, with the middle toggling the soft input panel (virtual keyboard) (see Figure 2). The new UI design is more consistent and closely resembles that of a Smartphone.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Three soft buttons at the bottom of the page

The user interface of Smartphones running Windows Mobile 5.0 now looks more like a Pocket PC than a phone. Figure 3 shows the UI for a Smartphone 2003 device, versus that of Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Smartphone Start screen in Smartphone 2003 and Windows Mobile 5.0

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