We've just had a super-sneaky peak at the future of Windows Mobile -- version 6.5 -- and got to demo the new operating system in all its glory ourselves, on a brand-new HTC Touch Diamond2.
As we reported yesterday, Windows Mobile 6.5 will be launched under Microsoft's 'Windows Phone' ecosystem, arriving by the end of 2009. It's got a completely overhauled user interface, and aims to capture more of the consumer handset market.
Over the next few pages we'll take you through some of the key aspects of Windows Mobile 6.5. For more information about the OS and Microsoft's new Windows Phone announcement, check out our previous coverage here.
The biggest overhaul to Windows Mobile is the 'honeycomb' menu screen. It contains all the apps you regularly use. Each application has its own segment, and their arrangement is completely up to you.
Flicking the screen up or down scrolls through more of the honeycomb, revealing additional applications. It's not like the iPhone, where you use multiple pages of apps. Rather, it's one long page you cycle round and round to get to the app you're after. It works really well, and it's a genuine breath of fresh air for WinMo.
The animation of the scrolling page wasn't as super-smooth as menu transitions are on the iPhone, but this is still early days and neither the software nor the phone it was demonstrated on are out for months. We'll cut it some slack.
When you receive a call you're given the option to answer it or reject it (we know, madness!). Those red and green buttons in the photo aren't actually buttons to be pressed, but rather to be slid to the right. Comparisons to the iPhone's unlocking method are applicable here.
At the top the caller's name, number and photo (if available) are displayed. If you hate any given caller, just slide the reject button and continue going about your business.
The lock screen might not sound that interesting, but it's notable for displaying what's been going on while you were busy ignoring the handset, if nothing else.
Missed calls, answerphone messages and instant messages will all be displayed here. Notice the missed-call icon in an awkward white hue, up at the top. Slide it to see all your missed calls.
IE Mobile 6 ships as part of Windows Mobile 6.5, and it looks like this. Notice the large chunky back, favourites and zoom icons at the bottom. Hit zoom and the zoom slider (seen on the left) appears. Slide this up and down to zoom in and out of a Web page, and flick the page around with your finger. You can also double tap to zoom in on parts of the page.
Again, we weren't blown away with the smoothness of the scrolling animation, but we're saving our final opinions for when the software is finished and the handsets are released.
Here's part of the Web page zoomed in. Oh, hello there, little gecko. What have you been up to? "Oh nothing much. Just sitting around in two dimensions. Y'know, that sort of thing."
Fascinating creatures, geckos.
Here's your contacts list. Fairly self-explanatory, to be honest. Names, numbers and profile pictures appear here. Tap them and you're given the option to call them, email them, and perform other contact-specific tasks.
Finally, here's a shot of Windows Live Hotmail being used in Windows Mobile's mail application.
Keep your eyes peeled on Crave, as we'll have a hands-on report for the handset -- the HTC Touch Diamond 2 -- as used in this demo, and a look at how Microsoft is handling backup and syncing tasks with Microsoft My Phone.