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Things are getting a little cloudy in the Windows Mobile world, and we're welcoming the stormy skies. First, a refresher:

  • We're expecting Windows Mobile 6.5 to be released in the coming weeks.
  • We're pretty sure there's a Windows Mobile 6.5.1 waiting in the wings. We've seen but can't share (yeah, that's not fair, but them's the breaks) early — repeat: as in some time ago — screen shots of the purported build. The leaked ROMs we've seen recently (Exhibits A and B) appear headed in that direction but actually aren't quite there yet.
  • We're expecting the as yet still unannounced Windows Mobile 7 early next year, and it (hopefully) will be more along the lines of what we're seeing on the Zune HD than what we're used to on our current (and even upcoming) devices.

Now, fast-forward to the present, specifically the latest from Digitimes. They're giving an Oct. 1 date to the 6.5 "release" - quotation marks ours because you're probably not going to be able get a carrier-sanctioned upgrade at midnight or anything. Windows Mobile is still Windows Mobile, and carriers is carriers.

Digitimes also reports Microsoft plans "an upgrade version with a touch interface in February 2010, the sources indicated citing Microsoft roadmap." That's also right in line with what we've heard (but admittedly have have not second-sourced) regarding Windows Mobile 6.5.1. What phones will get 6.5.1? We're hearing the HTC Touch Pro 2 and Touch Diamond 2 — specifically the AT&T versions, which would lend credence to recent musings by Engadget that we'll finally see the keyboardless phone on the same network at the iPhone.

Then there's Windows Mobile 7, which Digitimes says will co-exist alongside Windows Mobile 6.5 when it's launched sometime in Q4 of 2010. As in, more than a year from now. The idea, Digitimes says, is to take on Android from the 6.5 front and the iPhone from Windows Mobile 7. (Sorry, Android. You get the second string offense, apparently.)

Now, we're among the first to take news from Digitimes with a big 'ol helping of salt. So what should you take out of this?

If you're not stoked about Windows Mobile 6.5, that's cool. We're pretty sure bigger things are in the works, starting with Windows Mobile 6.5.1, and really getting going with Windows Mobile 7. Look no further than the Zune HD for evidence of what Microsoft is capable of.

It's going to require some more ... what's that word? ... Patience.

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As Tom's Hardware is reporting (via Nvidia's official press release), the Zune HD, which is using Nvidia's much-hyped Tegra chipset, has a whopping eight processors to achieve that super-smooth OS:

Specifically, the Tegra provides the Zune HD with eight independent processors, each designed for a specific class of tasks - among them are an HD video processor, an audio processor, a graphics processor, and two ARM cores. Furthermore, the processors can work together or independently to minimize power consumption.

The press release goes on to say that Nvidia has no fewer than "50 active Tegra processor-based design projects currently in the works today," which is a heck of a lot, if you ask us.

And since we believe WM7 devices are going to need Tegra (or Snapdragon) to run as a requirement, you can begin to understand just how massive an overhaul in raw-processing ability Microsoft's new mobile OS will be bringing in 2010.

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Here are 371 seconds of the Zune HD and its gorgeous Tegra-powered OLED screen, showing off the spectacular UI improvements. [Techflash via wmpoweruser]

And speaking of the Zune HD, it's now available for pre-order ahead of the Sept. 15 launch. The 16-gigabyte model runs $220, and the $290 will buy you 32 gigs.

That not enough? It also appears that Microsoft plans for honest-to-goodness apps on the Zune. Our pals at The iPhone Blog point us to a Daring Fireball piece that alleges Microsoft offered "a bucket of money" to the developer of an iPhone Twitter client to port the app over to the Zune. (We hope it's Tweetie.) We agree with our pal Rene Ritchie in that we're going to need to see a public SDK before we take any Zune app talk seriously. But with the expectation that Windows Mobile 7 will share Zune code, it may just be a matter of "when," not "if."

Still want more? How about a very intelligent read from GDGT's Peter Rojas, who calls on Microsoft to bring Zune support to the Mac, which we're fully behind. Microsoft is so close to launching a near-total winner of a product (minus a few niggles, capacity being one). Zune software for the Mac is a no-brainer at this point.

Microsoft: Do the right thing.

Update: You want an SDK? How about this? [via Daring Fireball]

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OK, it's been a little while since we discussed "Project Pink," the project that Microsoft swears isn't a Zune phone, isn't (necessarily) Windows Mobile 7 and might or might not have anything to do with that punky pop singer. (OK, we made that last part up.)

Here's the latest breakdown by ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley:

  • Pink has an ad rep in the form of McCann Erickson, which also handles advertising for Windows Mobile. (Or not, depending on your view of things.)
  • Pink will be based on Windows Mobile 7 but won't look like the Windows Mobile 7 most of us are expecting.
  • Windows Mobile 7 should ship to OEMs about the time that WinMo 6.5 phones go to market. (We've seen that leaked and heard it from other sources, too.)
  • Pink's starting to sound somewhat like a tangential device, a la the Sidekick, and may have elements of the Zune, My Phone and Windows Marketplace for Mobile all wrapped into it. Motorola and Sharp have been rumored as manufacturers.

As for our take? Pink is still a genius codename in that we sound ridiculous repeating it over and over. Oh, and that whole Sidekick-esque thing could well be a pretty good bet. If it's given the proper UI (and WM7 for the rest of us better have one, too), and Microsoft throws some smart marketing behind it (and they seem to be doing OK with Bing), then Pink could well have a good shot at gobbling up some market share.

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Zune HD + OLED screen = us drooling

Obviously, watching this video from Engadget of the interface and OLED touchscreen of the Zune HD won't do it justice. But it's as close as we're gonna get till September, which it is rumored to launch. And it's still pretty darn good. And for any of you haters who don't believe Microsoft is capable of designing a compelling UI, well, let's just hope at least some of this makes it into Windows Mobile 7.

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See here! We're very much looking forward to the latest from HTC finally hitting the states. And that Samsung Omnia Pro and its even better specs is looking mighty yummy, too. But what we really want is some Snapdragon — and some Tegra.

And that brings us to the Zune HD, which was rumored to be housing said NVIDIA Tegra processor. And PC Perspective [via Engadget] is confirming that rumor. Basically, you're getting CPU, GPU and every other -PU you can think of on one chip. And it's a low-power chip at that, which means better battery life. And Endaget's right in that us Windows Mobile fans should feel a little put out if the Zune HD in fact does have that much power under its hood while we continue to chug away with more "standard" processors.

We've said it before and we'll say it again. Aside from the lack of a phone and a bizarre screen resolution (albeit an OLED screen), the Zune HD looks like it'll have a lot of what we've been wanting for a long, long time. And a lot of what we expect to see when Windows Mobile 7 finally makes it to market.

Still not impressed? Peep the demo video after the break and tell us you don't want a Tegra chip in your phone.

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While Engadget just got an up-close and personal look at the upcoming Zune HD, and Paul Thurrott scored some more details.

  • There are only three hardware buttons — a rocker for volume, a power button and a home button.
  • The browser is a "flavor" of Internet Explorer 6, but it won't look or feel like IE. Definitely not a bad thing.
  • The first flood of Xbox integration will surround video. Music will follow later.

More over at Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows, and we've got a brief video shot by Gizmodo after the break. Yes, you'll see a big fat link to "Marketplace" in the Zune HD's UI, but we're betting that's going to be for the Zune Marketplace, not Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Calm down, folks.

Do remember (and we have a feeling we'll be repeating this for a while) that while we expect the Zune and Windows Mobile to share some features in upcoming versions, we don't yet know for sure what they are. That's why we'll be keeping a closer eye on our phone-less cousins from now on.

Update: Cnet's Ina Fried got a less-blurry hands-on. Video of that, too, after the break.

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It's real, folks. The Zune HD. And it's coming this fall. And as we previously noted, it's one sexy device. About the only thing missing is, well, a phone.

It's said to have a 3.3-inch OLED capacitive touchscreen, at 272 pixels by 480 pixels. There will be a built-in HD Radio (as in FM) receiver and high-def output (by way of a dock). Not much is known about the software, which is where we're really interested, given all the rumors about how the Zune and Windows Mobile 7 will be sharing features in the future. (And damned if it doesn't still make us think of the Touch Diamond 2 every time we look at it.) We do, however, know that it connect the Zune Marketplace with the Xbox 360, which is very cool. Also on board is Internet Explorer.

So, yeah, still no Zune phone for now. But Microsoft's Chris Stephenson, general manager of global marketing for Microsoft Zune, tells CNET we likely will see plenty more of the Zune features, though not until next year.

"This is enough work for us this year," he said. "Going forward, Zune will start to surface on multiple platforms across the ecosystem. Expect to see it pop up in many different places."

No word on pricing or more details on the specs, and the official Zune HD site is scarce on info. But keep your eyes peeled, folks. This could well have pretty big ramifications for Windows Mobile in the months ahead.

Via Engadget and CNET

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We'll admit we've grown a little tired of the whole "Zune phone" back and forth – is the Zune software coming to Windows Mobile? Will there be a full-on Zune phone? Someone says yes, someone says no. But it's looking more and more like we may be seeing much more of the Zune in the future.

And with that in mind, feast your eyes on the purported ZuneHD, as spied by wmpoweruser. And the reported specs are enough to make any WinMo fanboy foam at the mouth.

  • Capacitive touchscreen (!)
  • Multitouch OLED capacitive touchscreen (!!)
  • Multitouch OLED capacitive touchscreen with a 16:9 aspect ratio (!!!)
  • TV-out (and possibly HDMI)
  • HD radio (as in FM tuner).
  • 16- and 32-gig capacity.
  • Multitouch-supported Internet browser.
  • High-def media playback.
  • Wireless sync.
  • Rumors of a Tegra processor.

Anything there you wouldn't want to have in a Windows phone? And there's no mistaking the resemblance to a certain HTC touchscreen phone we're expecting real soon. As for the ZuneHD, WMPU speculates that we'll see it this fall and that it will also be available outside the United States.

The question still remains: Is this a sign of things to come for Windows Mobile 7? Sound off in the comments.

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Microsoft is getting really good at giving us clues as to the future of Windows Mobile through its job listings. That's how we first learned of Windows Marketplace for Mobile. That's how we first learned of plans to finally fix over-the-air updates. That's where we learned of some mobile plans for Halo. And now, a biggie.

One of the worst-kept secrets in the mobile world is that Zune software is likely to play a big part in Windows Mobile 7. And a new job listing for a software developement engineer confirms this.

Responsibilities - Deliver core platform technology to internal and external partners. Effectively design, schedule, build and deliver on a v1 product and existing products. Collaborate with partners such as Outlook Mobile, Database, Zune, Shell, and OS. Deliver detailed specifications for the technical architecture of the system. Help mentor other members on the Dev team.

This looks like a job that will involve tying the room together, much like a nice area rug. Full job listing's after the break, but it's summed up here:

The Communications Foundations team is the engine room that powers these social experiences - the team builds the connectors and Unified Storage models that power all the social & communications experiences for WM7.

Via I Started Something

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We know there's a special breed of people out there who don't like touching the screen of their phones and instead stick to a stylus. (We're looking at you, Mal!) But what if Microsoft's trying to go one further in Windows Mobile 7 and make it so that you don't have to touch the phone at all?

ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley has uncovered slides from a January 2008 internal Microsoft presentation that showed "non-touch" technology. Basically you'd put the phone on a flat surface and wave your hand over it in various motions to make it trigger various actions. (These are not the droids you're looking for.)

"But, Phil," you say, "who cares about slides from January 2008? That's, like, a year and a half ago!" As Ms. Foley explains, the mock-ups in the slides have cameras in the top corner of the phone, not unlike the Zune HD mock-ups we've seen. And remember that the Zune hardware team is now part of the Windows Mobile team. And remember that touch (and specifically multi-touch) will play a big part in WM7.

She also notes that the phone is seen interacting with other devices – slide projectors, gaming consoles and the like – which is right in line with where MS is moving things.

Will any of this actually make it into Windows Mobile 7, which we're expecting to be announced next year? Who knows. But if it turns out to be true, we'll all have to stop worrying about Microsoft thinking outside the box.

Non-touch: Still on the Windows Mobile 7 Feature List?

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Yet Another Zune Phone Rumor (Updated)

Just when you think the rumors of a possible Microsoft Zune phone has faded into the sunset, another one surfaces. This round can be credited to a Twitter update from the Microsoft Office 2010 team that hints "June 2009 will be an important month for Zune lovers." This alone is a fairly innocent statement and could simply mean a new Zune player could be launched.  As for why it's the Office 2010 team that is dropping hints, we can't say.

It's the second update on the same Twitter page that complicates things. The update simply states, "New product launch, that's all I'm allowed to say. Hold off from buying an iPhone/Pre." The iPhone and the Pre are obviously smartphones, so it's tempting to put the Zune Phone back into the rumor mix.  Us, though, we're remembering how strenuously Microsoft has denied rumors of being in the hardware business and of the Zune Phone specifically.  So whatever it is, we're not expecting a 180 on this one (but a 360, or more specifically something to do with Xbox 360, doesn't seem crazy).

Regardless, June will be here before you know it and absent a "launch delay" we will all find out soon enough what's up Microsoft's sleeve.

[Read: Neowin.net]

Update: Yeah, NO.  Per Engadget, the tweets are not legit.  What, you thought a rumor with the words "Zune" and "Phone" within shouting distance of each other would actually pan out?

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Microsoft: No, no, no, no, no!

So a day after a Wall Street Journal piece gets everyone in a tizzy over a possible Pink-Verizon Windows Mobile thing, Microsoft's coming out and denying the whole thing.

No Zune phone. No Microsoft phone. No way, no how, get over it.

It's certainly not the first time we've gone through its, and it likely won't be the last. But, hey, it's cool. We're still looking forward to Windows Mobile 6.5, and we've got high hopes for Windows Mobile 7.

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No, there still isn't going to be a Zune phone. But CNET's Ina Fried lends even more credence to some of Zune's features showing up on Windows Mobile phones. She reports that Microsoft's Zune team has been split in two, with the software end now reporting to the Media Center side under Enrique Rodriguez, and the hardware side falling under the auspices of Tom Gibbons, how also heads the design end for Windows Mobile. So, the phone's not coming to the Zune. But bringing the Zune to the phone?

Rodriguez wasn't ready to offer details on when the Zune service would come, say, to Windows Mobile, but he did say to expect products within this calendar year that take the Zune service beyond just Microsoft's own line of digital music players.

Add this to what we recently learned about Microsoft's "reference chassis" for the future of Windows Mobile, and the picture is continuing to become a little less muddy. Microsoft's moving the pieces around the board, and Zune services are just part of the start of something new. The end game definitely isn't year, and probably not even for 2010. But it's clear Microsoft is plowing ahead with Windows Mobile.

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We're trying not to become too worried over the recent rumor that we're not going to see Windows Mobile 7 until 2010. So, we keep reminding ourselves that great things must be afoot, and that takes time. Reinforcing that optimism is news that Microsoft recently moved several exec-types to the Windows Mobile team.

From Techflash [via]:

Confirming a tip we received, the company acknowledged this afternoon that Zune executive Joe Belfiore and Windows Home Server GM Charlie Kindel have shifted to the Mobile Communications Business, the group responsible for Windows Mobile. They join Terry Myerson, who came from the Exchange team last year.

OK, there's no Zune phone coming. We know that. But lends even more credence to the reports that Windows 7 will be more Zune-esque or multimedia-centric. Bossman Steve Ballmer himself will be speaking at Mobile World Congress, so maybe we'll learn more then. If not? We'll just have to keep beating the bushes till 2010.

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We've known for a long time that Microsoft never intends on making a “Zune Phone”. We've also long known that Microsoft doesn't intend on making any phone themselves. Instead, we've we told you that the music features of the Zune would make their way onto Windows Mobile. J Allard said it back in November. In April we started tracking some mysterious new “Pink and Purple” projects coming out of Microsoft's “eLive” team (Go ahead and add “Rouge” to the red-tinted projects related to Windows Mobile, by the way).

So now the news that Steve Ballmer himself has weighed in [via Engadget] and reiterated that Zune functionality will come to Windows Mobile is, um, no surprise.

Now, we built the Zune hardware with the Zune software - and what you’ll see more and more over time is that the Zune software will also be ported to and be more important not just with the hardware but on the PC, on Windows Mobile devices, etc.

We'd argue that it's about time that Microsoft paid attention to making Windows Media Player suck less, but we really don't want to go beating that dead horse again right now. It turns out that if you leave a dead horse lying around for as long as Windows Media Player on Windows Mobile has needed work, it gets a little rank. Instead we just ignore WMP altogether and until these Pink/Purple/Rouge/Zune features hit, recommend you do the same. Here's how: check out our Media Player roundup and install something better.

Thanks to Leo for the Tip!

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eLive Mobile: Stealth WM Services Project?

Over at seattlepi, Todd Bishop notes that Microsoft had a job listing for what looks to be some sort of new mobile services initiative from Microsoft: eLive Mobile. Now it could be any number of things, but here's the nut of it:

The Elive team is embarking on the mission to create a "Connected Entertainment" experience, realized through ELive service, that spans multiple devices such as Zune, Xbox, PC and Mobile phones.

Microsoft seems to be working very hard behind the scenes on adding more and better services to Windows Mobile. We've discussed their Live services many a time , most recently noting that they're planning big things like adding more "search-centric" services with their "wave 3" rollout. They've also mentioned that they intend to fix that pernicious bad branding issue, although we have to say that adding "e" to "Live" does not quite do it for us.

So it won't be a ZunePhone, but we do know that "Zune features and interfaces will eventually make their way onto Windows Mobile." Perhaps eLive could be just those features and interfaces.

Adding fodder to the behind-the-scenes services rumor mill is that fact that Microsoft's acquisition of the Danger wasn't about the Sidekick, it was (and is) about services.

When will we see it all? Tough to say, though the mysterious "Projects Pink and Purple," which are clearly Windows Mobile-related but otherwise not clear at all, will supposedly be popping up by the end of 2008.

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Microsoft's J Allard on the Zune Phone

No, there won't be a Zune Phone, as we've said before and will surely have to say again. But “J Allard comments on how the Zune's features and interfaces will eventually make their way into Windows Mobile, thereby vindicating our own speculation” just doesn't seem like a very pithy headline.

Over at the New York Times Bits Blog, Saul Hansell got a chance to corner J Allard, who is in charge of Zunes these days and maybe kinda sorta has something to do with Windows Mobile. Hansell put up some of Allard's comments (really just the highlights), and they're interesting. One - the iPhone is a good phone but a mediocre iPod - since you have to look at the thing to interact with it. Allard also joins us in giving Mobile Safari its due.

More interesting to us, though, is the stuff on Windows Mobile. 1st: the iPhone is good for Windows Mobile because it's made some space for innovation by pushing carriers out of the way. 2nd: Allard on the Zune's interface with regards to Windows Mobile:

The phone will be one part entertainment…. What you will see from us is more of these signature experiences. When you see the Zune, you’ll say say, I want my music experience on the phone to be like that. Hey, I want my telecommunication experience on the phone to be more like that.

Read: New York Times Blog

Sound familiar? It should, because we totally told you so:

The Zune isn't doing all that well in the market of MP3 players (and that's not too surprising), but what if Microsoft doesn't care? What if they're using the Zune to build up their “interface chops” and using what few buyers they've gained as secret beta testers? We know that we won't see a “Zune Phone”, but we also know that the Zune and Windows Mobile share the CE Platform underpinnings.
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So David Pogue put up a review of the T-Mobile Shadow (Video First Look of the Shadow here) - I'm jealous because the Shadow is the device I'm itching to try out for real once the Smartphone Round Robin is over. He gives the hardware and the specs very high praise, but spends the bulk of his review railing against Windows Mobile.

Frankly, Windows Mobile 6 is a mess. Common features require an infinitude of taps and clicks, and the ones you need most are buried in menus. Apparently the Windows Mobile 6 team learned absolutely nothing from Windows Mobile 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Read: Looks Good, Feels Good, but Wait... - New York Times

I have a few thoughts on this (including a Zuney zany idea!)- read on after the break.

Fair 'nough, I suppose, that Pogue is frustrated by extra dialogs, menus, and wait times. CrackBerry Kevin and iPhone Mike expressed similar complaints in their Round Robin posts. A lot of that is, as Pogue says, the manufacturer “punting” their responsibility to tweak Windows Mobile a bit to match the hardware. But a lot of it is stuff that I might be blind to - I pop up menus to do things and it doesn't often bother me because I have the shortcuts built into my “lizard brain.”

What I mean is that Windows Mobile works for me in large part because I 'grok' it. I encourage other power users to try to 'grok' it too so they can access the incredible functionality squirreled away inside Windows Mobile. With non-power-users, though, I often find myself just suggesting they get something simpler, which is a real downer.

We mentioned that Microsoft is playing around a bit with the interface with the Shadow, and may be playing around with the interface in general for the (unlikely) rumored Windows Mobile 6.1 update. Should they be playing around more?

I'm sure there would be a lot of support for a complete User Interface overhaul of Windows Mobile. In fact, I'd say most people keeping an eye on this space are expecting just such an overhaul from Photon / Windows Mobile 7.

In an IM conversation with our very own Merlyn3D, I had a surprising thought. The Zune isn't doing all that well in the market of MP3 players (and that's not too surprising), but what if Microsoft doesn't care? What if they're using the Zune to build up their “interface chops” and using what few buyers they've gained as secret beta testers? We know that we won't see a “Zune Phone”, but we also know that the Zune and Windows Mobile share the CE Platform underpinnings.

So how about it? If we want to know how Microsoft is going to simplify the User Interface of Windows Mobile in Photon, do we need to look no further than the Zune?

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