New Windows Mobile UI represents big change

Microsoft is expected to unveil a revamped user interface for Windows Mobile 6.5 at the Mobile World Congress Monday.

Combined, the new UI and the updated version of IE could make Windows Mobile phones more attractive to business users. IT administrators increasingly say that their users are asking for the iPhone and other popular models that have far more attractive UIs than the current generation of Windows Mobile phones. However, some IT managers prefer Windows Mobile because it offers a simple platform for pushing enterprise data out to mobile users.

"This should make it an easier sell," said Sean Ryan, an analyst at IDC. "I don't think it's going to necessarily replace the iPhone buzz with this, but it absolutely creates more of a situation where IT can say, 'this is what we support,' and they might not get as much push back," he said.

Microsoft is also showing off a clever new voice-search application developed by its research group and called Microsoft Recite. Users can record voice memos and save them on the phone. They can then search those voice memos using voice commands. For example, a user would launch the search mechanism in the voice memo application, speak a word, and the application searches for that same word in any of the saved voice memos.

Phones currently running Windows Mobile 6.1 are upgradeable to the new 6.5 version; however, it's up to the phone maker to allow it, Rockfeld said. Windows Mobile 6.5 may appear preloaded on existing hardware, or vendors could launch new phones for the software, he said.

At MWC, Microsoft also unveiled a new applications store and opened a limited beta for its My Phone backup offering. Rumors about both services have been circling for weeks. Conflicting rumors about whether Microsoft would introduce an upgraded operating system have also been circulating, but details of what would constitute the update have been scarce.

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