Windows Mobile 6 Conference Call Notes

By Jason Dunn on Thursday, February 8, 2007

I was able to participate in a conference call today about Windows Mobile 6 with some people from Microsoft (and my fellow Mobius members). Windows Mobile 6 has a lot of changes over the previous version, but they're not all easily summed up in a few bullet points. Below are my notes from the call, and what I think about the new features that were discussed. Overall, I left the call feeling quite excited about Windows Mobile 6.

Contacts are now integrated with Windows Live - they showed us a contact that was also on the Messenger list of the devices owner. When you're signed into Messenger on the device, it will actually pull down the avatar and integrate it into the contact. Being the visual person that I am, I'm quite excited about that. I asked how this process worked, and they explained that when you're logged into Windows Live Messenger, a background process will cross-reference your contacts with your Messenger list and download the avatars in the background. It will also refresh them if they're updated (how often I don't know). There's also a gleam that shows up, which you can click on if they have a MSN Space that has been updated. I dearly wish MSN would open up their system to allow pings from other blogging platforms such as WordPress, Typepad, Blogger, etc. Not everyone uses MSN Spaces.

Email setup has been streamlined - there used to be an XML blob up on a server that Microsoft had some basic mail settings on, but it wasn't updated often and tended not to work all that often. Microsoft recently contracted a third party service that has now taken over this task, and the experience is supposed to be much better than before with a broader range of ISPs. Unfortunately they haven't yet added the one thing that would help me and many others: if I put in [email protected], the odds are very high that my POP/IMAP and SMTP server settings are going to be mail.domain5.com. There's still no sync with Outlook email accounts - I've been hoping (asking) for years that when you dock the device with your PC it would copy over all your Outlook email account settings. That would save me a good 10 minutes of device setup - in fact I've tended not to even add all of my email accounts because it was such a hassle. There's also an irritating IMAP bug that has apparently been fixed in Windows Mobile 6, which will make my device useful with IMAP again.
You know that cool smart filter in contacts where you can start typing out the name of the person and it will filter down to their contact? You can now to the same thing in email - you can type the name of the person that the email is from, or the subject line. You can also search for messages on the server if the smart filter didn't find what you wanted - it requires Exchange 2007 to accomplish this though, which isn't all that surprising. But it opens up some very interesting possibilities when you can search through 20,000 messages on your Exchange server and finding the email you want. All the more reason to get a 4smartphone (affiliate) account if you still haven't experienced how superb it is.

Email downloads are now progressive - let's say you have your email sync to pull 3K of an email. If the email is bigger than that, there's an option at the bottom of the screen that says "Get the rest of the message" (not the exact wording). When you click on it, ActiveSync will kick off in the background and it will pull down the rest of the message. What's really impressive is that it does it immediately, and doesn't change your location in the message - it will literally grow the message below you, and you can watch the scroll bar get longer.

There's still no way to do multiple selections for email messages, but this has been largely mitigated by the one button delete. The left soft key has been changed do be Delete by default - before it was New, which didn't make much sense on a device where people will largely triage email and do a lot of deleting. It's now very fast to pound through deleting your email with just a single button press, which will make a lot of people happy.

When you select an attachment in an email message, you have the option to open it or do a Save As to put it on a storage card or something similar. Excel in Office Mobile has some basic editing functions - you can change a data field and it will update the embedded chart.

The calendar "ribbon" is useful if you plan your time by looking at the blocks of time - I personally never use this method of appointment planning, but I know a lot of people do. The week view has added a preview of the appointment being selected, so as you move your selection over your appointments you can see what they are.

You can FINALLY invite attendees to an appointment on the Smartphone client, which is a first - and happens to be one of my long-standing pain points with the Smartphone platform because I use the invite attendee function to coordinate appointments with my wife. If someone sends you a meeting request, the request will tell you if there's a scheduling conflict. You can add required attendees, but you can also add optional attendees. The company directory (via the Exchange GAL) can also be accessed - meaning if someone isn't in your contact list but you want to invite them to a meeting, it will pull down their information.

Windows Media Player now has the "smart search" for your songs - you can start to type the name of the song and it will filter down to find the song you want. I'm not sure if it works just on songs, or if that includes artist or album names. I hope it works on metadata and not file name. I've also been told it will now do full-screen video on VGA devices, which is a big improvement over Windows Mobile 5. It seems like an eternity since Windows Media Player Mobile has had any improvements, so I'm very pleased to see some forward movement with this application. I don't know if the horrific library update functionality has been improved, but I can hope someone realized it needed an overhaul.

Windows Live Messenger looks like it has a lot of new features - when you select a contact on your list, it expands slightly and it will show you the avatar for that contact. I changed my avatar on my profile, and on the device I saw it updated in about five seconds. Not bad at all! There's a tabbed interface for multiple chat windows - a critical update if you're a hardcore chatter. You can quickly move between chats by pressing left and right on the d-pad. There's a voice clip feature that I've been waiting forever for - on the device you can press a button to record a voice clip, press it again to stop and send. It appears on the other end looking like this:



It's sort of a poor man's PTT (push to talk), but I think it will get some great usage because voice is such a natural way to communicate. That clip above sent to me was 14 seconds long and 216 KB in size in WAV format - it would be great to see some MP3 encoding someday, but that would probably require a different licensing fee. It has the file name formatted as [messengerusername][email protected]_35_43.wav.

And that's about all that was covered at the moment I don't have a Windows Mobile 6 device in front of me, but if you have questions I'll do my best to answer them.

Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He's loving the Windows Mobile 6 so far!

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