Windows Mobile 6.5 Gets Mixed Reviews, Mobile Browser Much Improved

Windows Mobile is officially out today, though we haven't yet held a device with one and used it. Looking across a wide range of reviews out this morning the consensus is that it's an improvement over 6.1 but ultimately "disappointing." On the favorable side is the following from Venture Beat:

But the software is really what is useful here. Microsoft markets the experience in a clever way. It says it’s a “smartphone that’s smart enough to bring all the parts of our lives together,” striking a balance between business life and personal life. You can get all sorts of communications apps: voice, email, instant messenger, photo sharing, and social networks . . .

Overall, Windows Mobile 6.5 moves Microsoft into a somewhat defensible position compared to its rivals. But observers are eagerly awaiting better things from Microsoft when Windows Mobile 7 launches sometime next year.

Yet the language there is tepid ("somewhat defensible"). On the negative or more critical side are the following from Gizmodo ("There's no excuse for this"):

It's a superficial update, and not a very thorough one. It's an interim product, and a vain attempt to hold onto the thinning ranks people who still choose Windows Mobile despite not being somehow tethered to it until the tardy Windows Mobile 7 comes out, whenever that may be. And it won't work.

And then there's this one from ZDNet's Matthew Miller, normally a Windows Mobile fan:

I’ve had the chance to use both an AT&T HTC Pure and Pharos Traveler 137 running Windows Mobile 6.5 and I have to say Microsoft disappoints me greatly with this release. We have seen more leaked than what was released today so maybe there will be some upcoming updates, but I am disappointed by the lipstick Microsoft gives to us with WM 6.5.

The implication here is "lipstick on a pig." Ouch. Miller offers a video tour of 6.5.

I had seen videos of 6.5 and thought it would be a dramatic improvement over 6.1, which I owned and used daily for over a year. Overall from these reviews it does not appear to be the needed reinvention of the Windows Mobile OS.

However I'll withhold final judgment until I get a chance to form my own impressions. But if these critical reviews are accurate then Windows Mobile will be in trouble. Windows Mobile 7 is due out at some point next year. But in the meantime, the competition continues to intensify -- to put it mildly. 

In conjunction with the WinMo updgrade debut, Microsoft has simultaneously launched its app store competitor, Marketplace for Mobile, and its My Phone cloud back-up service as well. One area where Microsoft does seem to have made a solid improvement is mobile IE 6, pre-installed on WinMo 6.5. It provides full flash support as well. CNet offers a positive review and video of the browser upgrade. 

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Related: Former rivals Google and Verizon (for the 700 MHz spectrum) plan an announcement later today, which is probably the first Android handset launch on Verizon. Google may have timed this announcement consciously to steal some of the PR thunder from Windows Mobile.