Windows Mobile 6.1: What’s changed?

Dear readers,

Part 1 of four: Windows mobile 6.1

Microsoft. The big gigantic company, based in Redmond, Washington – alive for over 20 years and breathing well in a mountain of money, resources, and software.

While the term “Windows Mobile” is very well known in our world today, it wasn’t so known 15 years ago – when Windows Mobile was being born out of the ashes of Project Pegasus by Microsoft and it’s partners.
Today, so many things are Windows mobile powered. Cell phones. Pocket PCS. Cars. Note-takers for the blind. Microwaves. Vacuums. Toilets. Showers. Earplugs. Toys. Children. While the ladder seven are not really powered by Windows mobile, the time is close at hand – now that Ford and other vehicles actually run the thing.

Windows Mobile version 6.1 was a major release, but I think it’s time to examine what it offers. It came out, in fact, in 2008.
With this review, I intend to introduce my readers to the platform of Windows mobile and offer a glimps into it’s similarities, differences, and uses today.

Windows mobile: How mobile are we?

Windows 7 on a PC weighs just around 7 gigs. Yep, 7 gigs of DLLS, executables, mp3s, images, you name it. 7 gigs of data.
Phones however are not even near 7 GB capacities yet. Most today have anywhere from 256 to 512 MB of rom, and 128 to 256 mb of ram – though some high end pocket PCS can have 3 GB of rom at most. When we are talking of Rom, we mean Read only Memory – the “hard drive” of a Windows mobile powered toilet. I mean device!

Generally, the low-end images of Windows Mobile 6.1 can weigh less than 30 MB – while the high-end roms, which include GPS and more exclusives, can go up to 200 MB.
Windows Mobile 6.1 on the Motorola Q, including Documents to go and basic applications, is 74 MB. Windows mobile 6.1 on the newer 2009 HTC ozone is 154 MB. Again, this is Windows mobile 6.1 standard. Windows mobile on a pacmate, however, with JAWS included, is 37 mb – while on a braille note it is 42.

What flavors do we have?:

Now that I’ve shown you just how flexible and customizable Windows mobile really is, what editions of it exist?
Unlike mainstream operating systems, Windows mobile is offered in 3 editions:
Classic for PDAs without phone features,
professional with PDAs with touchscreen and phone features,
and standard for smartphones without a touchscreen.

Each Windows mobile device is as unique as a person. For instance, you can’t use the rom image of the Motorola Q in the HTC ozone and vise versa – the driver and device layout is too different. Each edition of WM is slightly different. While the OS originally only had one release (what you’d classify Windows mobile classic today), they had to expand to 3 with the introduction of cell phones. So in escence, the edition which contains all of the modules and files for Windows mobile is the professional one today.
Windows mobile standard does not have such things as transcriber and handwriting recognition – while WM classic does not have cell phone radio interfaces and calling features built in.
Just like the edition of Windows on desktops, there exists little to no difference in how each edition is layed out. all 3 have a start menu. All 3 have a settings menu – although in Windows Mobile professional and classic, this dialog has various tabs. Each edition has a clock and alarm, regional settings, owner information, Calendar, Contacts, Tasks, and security features – generally these dialogs are also universal.

So how similar is Windows mobile to the PC?
When I first received my Windows mobile� phone 2 years ago (the Motorola q), the learning curve to the device was none to 0. You have a start menu in both cases. While on a desktop you mainly use your tab and shift tab keys, In Windows mobile you mainly use your arrows and soft keys to get around your device. On a pocket PC, your touch screen is layed out in 4 zones – and this can be confusing and I imagine a bigger adoptation versus using a smartphone.
This is why for the purposes of these series of reviews, we will only look at Windows mobile 6.1 standard devices. If you have a pocket PC, know your zones – and memorize well.
But in both cases you will need to memorize. With a smartphone, memorize your soft key arrangements – that way you don’t have to wait for their announcements or if sighted, look at the bottom of your screen above them to know what they are. You will also have a curve with memorizing your start menu – you can’t use first letter navigation in WM standard devices. If your Windows Mobile� device has a keyboard, you can, however, simply press a letter to get to that start menu item. Again, slight differences.

You can also install programs on a Windows mobile device, much as you would on a laptop. The same programs on your desktop can’t install, however -you need software for PDAs specifically.


The messaging application allows you to send text and MMS messages, or set up e-mail accounts. It is simply and clear to navigate. To make account switching easier, you can hit the left and right arrow keys on your device.

With Windows mobile 6.1, you have the introduction of threaded messaging – where multiple messages are grouped into conversations. This is a new feature and for some, can be efficient when viewing large groups of messages – it is all threaded into one html type document. Some devices allow you to turn this feature off, while others don’t. If you are using the Mobile Speak Smartphone screen reader, you can go into your control panel>general settings to turn threaded messaging off. Restart the messaging app after you have finished.

Pocket Internet explorer:

Perhaps one nice feature of Windows mobile is Internet explorer. While Mobile Speak screen readers don’t yet support quick key navigation, the browser functions fairly well with webpages. Some sighted users have described it as ancient – and I don’t blame them for this. With Windows mobile 6.1, you have options to enroll your device in a domain – and this I’d imagine will be useful for more professional users. Internet explorer retains it’s version and usage as it did in Windows mobile 6 – no updates.

Today screen:

On a Windows mobile powered device, your today screen is like your desktop. It displays appointments, unread messages, the time and service carrier if using a phone, and owner info /tasks with a pocket pc. Starting with version 6.1, a new layout of today screens is available – called sliding panel. Only on smartphones, however. This today screen layout is not yet accessible with screen readers – and for the sighted, it allows easier navigation.


Overall, Windows mobile is a nice operating system. I don’t think the learning curve will be large for many – it is very similar to the regular Windows offered on PCs today. With version 6.1, a few enhancements are added – but no major functionality. This is a disappointment, as we have not seen a Windows mobile release since 2007 – version 6. Not much progress in a year, I guess.

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