Windows Mobile 6.5

Windows Mobile 6.5Techies, geeks, pundits, BlackBerry addicts, and even a few ordinary people looked forward to Microsoft’s launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 with high hopes. They had sized-up the competition and eagerly anticipated Microsoft’s latest entry into the handheld derby. Early in 2009, Palm had resurrected its business and wowed Berry lovers with a brand new operating system well-equipped with all the features they needed, wanted, and craved.

Far more importantly, the entire handheld industry lived in the shadow of Apple’s app-packed iPhone; and, in Q4 2008, iPhone sales eclipsed Blackberry’s for the first time. Especially 18-to-24 year-old celly-addicts had glommed onto iPhone and clearly had no intention of relaxing their white-knuckle grip unless Windows Mobile 6.5 dazzled them into delirium.

Meanwhile, Microsoft had planned to launch Windows Mobile 7 by the end of 2009, promising a worthy entry into the fiercely competitive handheld market. Windows Mobile 7, however, kept bogging down in beta testing, suffering repeated delays. Eager to bring something to an upgrade-hungry market, Microsoft released Windows Mobile 6.5 as a “placeholder.” The first users of Windows Mobile 6.5 put out the word: “placeholder” was Microsoft’s euphemism for “poor substitute for the real deal.”

Market analysts expressed both surprise and scorn. They expected Microsoft engineers and marketers would have learned their lesson from premature introduction of Windows Vista—a “placeholder” between Windows XP and Windows 7. They concluded that the majority of so-called “improvements” from Windows Mobile 6.1 were cosmetic. Overall performance had changed very little.

Responding to Complaints about Windows Mobile 6.1

Especially among younger handheld users whose thumbs can blur as they fire off text messages, “finger-friendliness” makes or breaks a system. Windows Mobile 6.1 fell far short of finger-friendly. In fact, most interactions between users and phones operating on Windows Mobile 6.1 required a stylus—neither efficient nor cool. Of course, everybody expected Microsoft would take care of that problem in 6.5. Imagine their shock and awe, then, when 6.5 became more finger-friendly only on the home screen, remaining clumsy as ever on the interfaces users work most.

Other unhappy 6.1 users complained it ran slowly, crashed often, and lacked features they wanted and needed. They expressed greatest surprise that 6.1 was not as web-friendly as its rivals. When they tried 6.5, they relented in their complaints but remained less than satisfied. Reviewers said, almost unanimously, that Windows Mobile 6.5 had made giant strides toward the speed, reliability, stability, and capability they wanted, agreeing Microsoft was on the right track. They went on to say, though, Windows Mobile 6.5 came nowhere close to rivaling Google Android, iPhone, and webOS.

Challenged to sum-up their impressions of Windows Mobile 6.5, even the most generous reviewers concluded the new operating system is little more than 6.1 with a prettier face. Considering Windows Mobile 6.5 from a purchaser’s perspective, no reviewer could justify buying a new handheld factory equipped with Windows Mobile 6.5. Buyers have far too many genuinely attractive choices in the same price range, they agreed.

Scathing Criticism from the Toughest Judges

The most reliable and most demanding reviewers did not mince words. One of the computer world’s giants complained that Windows Mobile 6.5 showed all the telltale signs of a rush job, and it seemed unfinished, a jumble of good intentions tied-up in a pretty package. He further tore into Microsoft engineers for failing seriously to upgrade the company’s handheld operating systems for nearly a decade. He did not reserve his criticism for the OS alone; he also liberally heaped aspersions on Windows’ lame attempt at an app store, damning the service with the truth. Any of the so-called “new” apps runs equally well on 6.0 and 6.1. No reviewer could understand why the app store offered some apps for sale at $20.

Another reviewer compared Windows Mobile 6.5 with Zune HD, concluding Zune runs circles around 6.5 and “it isn’t even a phone.”

A Little Redemption…only a little

The majority of reviewers grudgingly conceded Windows Mobile 6.5 has Microsoft Office capability no other phone can match. None bothered to wonder why an Office-savvy user would use any part of the office suite on the handheld when a laptop would perform far better. Some were wise enough to point out, however, netbooks running on Google Android will hit the market very soon, making a less than finger-friendly handheld look a lot like Fred Flintstone’s car trying to get up to speed on the Santa Monica Freeway.

 sPhoto by blinx_182

One other very kind-hearted reviewer stressed the value of Windows Mobile 6.5’s “My Phone” feature, which gives users the ability to back-up all of their data on a password-protected website. Using My Phone, a user can store calendar, contacts, photos, documents, music, and messages. Then, if data gets lost or the user gets a new phone, all the valuable old stuff reloads with just a few clicks. In a supposedly brand new system, one feature of Windows Mobile 6.5 scored well.

And now, once again, the geeks and pundits look forward to Microsoft’s launch of Windows Mobile 7 early in 2010.

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