Sure, I was a little dubious at first that Microsoft would be announcing Windows Mobile 6 earlier than expected. Perhaps part of it was a "French publication" breaking the embargo early that led them to just go ahead and tell everybody to start talking about it. In any case, the internet is all abuzz over it today instead of the February 12th official launch date.

Read on for a massive round-up of reviews, screen shots, and all the WM6 Links you can shake a stick at.

Update: Here's Engadget's photo gallery of WM6 Pro

The Big Pieces

First off, you should know that rather than referring to "Smartphone Edition" or "Pocket-PC Edition", Microsoft cleaned up the naming scheme a bit. Now we have:

  • WM6 Standard for non-touchscreen smartphones.
  • WM6 Professional for touchscreen smartphones.
  • WM6 Classic for non-smartphone Pocket PC Devices (stop snickering, they still exist)

So what are the big changes between WM5 and WM6? Well, not to rain on anybody's parade, but I wouldn't call any of these changes huge. On the other hand, I would call each and every one of them welcome

  • Built-in Windows Update(!) - Will the carriers stand for this? I know that Palm spends months testing the most minor of bugfixes so the carriers won't have a bird.
  • Built-in memory card encryption and the ability to do remote-wipes.
  • HTML-formatted email (I don't want this, but others do).
  • A neater feature is "SmartFilter," which automatically filters your emails as you type just like most contacts applications filter your contacts. SmartFilter also works on your music collection.
  • Better Live Mail (nee Hotmail) integration, including contact integration.
  • 320x320 Screen Resolution support - Palm, I expect a new WM Treo yesterday with this screen resolution.
  • Windows Live goes out of Beta and will be built-in
  • Direct Push now standard (has been for awhile on WM5, but I know some of you are still stuck without it)
  • 3rd party software should still work fine - just in case you were wondering.
  • Microsoft Office Mobile updated - now full edits documents on all editions of WM6!
  • Pocket Internet Explorer to be faster, they're saying 30% faster - let's hope! Also new, "Mobile AJAX standards"
  • Better Vista integration
  • Enhanced Calendar, including a "ribbon."
  • Improved Security
  • Built-in VOIP(!) - no, not really, but they added support for it "under the hood", according to cnet.
  • A ton of smaller tweaks, changes, fixes, improvements, etc.

First-look Roundup: rolls in with some live-shots of the Standard version loaded up on a T-Mobile Dash. - Geek News - First Impressions: Windows Mobile 6

I've had the pleasure of testing out a beta version of Windows Mobile 6 for a few weeks and I couldn't be happier with it.

PC Magazine: 4/5 - Windows Mobile 6: Full Review - Review by PC Magazine, plus a big gallery

With Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft set a skilled handyman to work on the creakier joists of their mobile OS, but they stopped well short of a gut renovation. The new OS is really more of an honorable version 5.5 than a true 6 – an accumulation of new, useful features that doesn't disturb the OS's underpinnings or solve some of its deeper problems.

CNet has the usual standard write-up, if you just want the news fix. - Microsoft to unveil Windows Mobile 6 | CNET

One of the changes that is under the hood in Windows Mobile 6, but not expected to be visible to consumers, is support for Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, calling. Microsoft isn't including software to let individuals make such calls, but has added the internal plumbing to allow carriers and device makers to add VoIP support if they wish. "It's an investment we are making for something that today isn't as predominant," O'Rourke said. "I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 12 months we saw some partner announcements" around VoIP.

Modern Nomads gives us the largest review - What will Windows Mobile 6 bring for the highly mobile people? - Modern Nomads

We do not do product announcements, but we do feel compelled to share our experiences with the new version of Windows Mobile: it is a major change in the OS and it can affect the landscape of the mobile device market as we all know it. The question remains if this change is in fact an improvement for you in your daily life. To help you make up your mind, we have written down the experiences we have with this OS. This is a rather lengthy review, so we have added a table of contents to it, to help you find your way easily.

ZDNET has a nice rundown as well, including a large gallery - » Microsoft reveals Window Mobile 6 and we have all the details | The Mobile Gadgeteer |

I can confirm from personal experience with a beta of Windows Mobile 6 that many of the changes made by Microsoft have been targeted at improving the user experience.

Speaking of galleries, here's a nice one provided by Microsoft to pocketpcthoughts; and another from engadget.