At CTIA Last week, Robbie Back announced Windows Mobile 6.1

I haven't seen as much excitement as I expected. yet one of the most respected analysts told me "you should have called it Windows Mobile 6.5, it is that good". These are the key features in my opinion:

  1. Tile-based user interface for Standard Edition. I like it a lot. It makes Windows Mobile much more easy to use but it also makes the homescreen more useful: as an example, you can look at your appointments for the day without leaving the home screen.
  2. Easier Setup. There is a new getting started center, easier e-mail setup including autodiscovery, streamlined bluetooth pairing, easier WiFi connections, etc.
  3. Other improvements. Including improved Pocket IE browser, threaded SMS messaging

Take a look at the video on this page: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/6-1/

What has not received a lot of attention are the new enterprise features in WM 6.1, in part because they have a dependency with Exchange 2007 SP1. For customers using the latest Exchange server (or a front-end Exchange 2007 server with an Exchange 2003 as the main mail servers) the following improvements are available in WIndows Mobile 6.1 devices:

  • Bandwidth optimizations that result in a significant reduction in data usage. There could be as much as a 40% improvement for most users.

  • Enhanced S/MIME support - support for encrypted email and additional policies to enforce and manage S/MIME use are now included.

  • On-Device Encryption - a few customers have required full encryption of all email, calendars and tasks on the device. Previous versions support encryption of the storage card, email encryption and encryption of data stored in SQL Server CE.

  • Control of device features. This includes enabling/disabling the camera, browser, WiFi, text messaging, bluetooth, etc.

  • White List or Black List applications, as well as a policy to allow unsigned applications.

  • Additional policies including some of the following:
    • Require manual sync when roaming to avoid excessive roaming data charges
    • Additional control on password management: expiration, complexity, etc.

Now that Exchange 2007 SP1 is being deployed in record numbers (I blogged about 2.8 million users being migrated from competitive email servers just in the second half of 2007) and since SP1 is a free and easy upgrade to Exchange 2007, most companies will be able to enjoy all the features they want in an email system (encryption, turning off the camera, application white listing, etc.) that they have had to pay for and add middleware to get (i.e. BES servers), plus advanced email features (most of which no other platform offers today like HTML push email, rights management permission enforcement, direct access to documents stored in SharePoint portal behind the firewall, etc.) at no cost and without the need for middleware.

In other words, most companies will find that with WM61 and E2007 SP1 they get everything they get with a BES Server plus a lot more, while saving money on licenses & support and improving uptime and efficiency.

Windows Mobile 6.1 is the version supported by System Center Mobile Device Manager (MDM), which was announced at CTIA Wireless IT in October, which is now available for deployment. MDM is a product for large organizations doing complex deployments. MDM gives organizations everything they want in a device management server (security, control, sofwtare provisioning, etc.) plus two things that were not possible before: devices joining Active Directory and managed using group policy and a true, persistent, fast-reconnect VPN. Together, these two improvements are going to enable deployments of tens of thousands of devices (because they are easy to manage with MDM) and enable pervasive use of LOB applications.

How do you get Windows Mobile 6.1?

Just like with Windows Mobile 6 upgrades, making an upgrade available for a specific phone is more of a business decision than a function of technology, compatibility or hardware dependencies. In the press release Microsoft listed a number of phones will have upgrades. We are working with all carriers to provide upgrades for as many phones as possible. Expect more announcements soon. Software upgrades and new phones with Windows Mobile 6.1 will be available in the next few weeks.The announced upgrades are the following:

• Alltel Wireless: HTC PPC6800, HTC Touch
• AT&T: Samsung BlackJack II, MOTO Q 9h global, Pantech duo, AT&T Tilt by HTC
• Sprint: A new Palm Treo and updates for the Mogul by HTC, Touch by HTC, MOTO Q 9c, Samsung ACE