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Windows Mobile is a mobile operating system line developed by Microsoft. It is used usually for PDAs and sometimes smartphones. It is similar to its predecessor Pocket PC.

Windows Mobile 2003[]

PPC2003 001

Typical Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Today Screen

The first version, named Windows Mobile 2003, was released on June 23, 2003 and was the first release under the Windows Mobile banner. It came in three editions, two of which were similar: Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition, which is designed especially for Pocket PCs which include phone functionalities (as HTC's Himalaya, distributed in many countries as Qtek, XDA, MDA or VPA).

The third edition is named Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone, which — despite several similarities with Pocket PC — is a substantially different platform that also requires software applications to be specifically targeting this device type. To name a few specifics, Windows Mobile powered Smartphone devices do not have touchscreens, have lower display resolution, have a regular phone keypad, and are specially designed for single-handed use.

Windows Mobile 2003 is powered by Windows CE 4.20.

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition[]

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, also known as Windows Mobile 2003SE, was released on March 24, 2004 and first offered on the Dell Axim x30. It includes a number of improvements over its predecessor, such as:

  • The option to switch from landscape to portrait screen layout. This is not available in the Smartphone version.
  • Pocket Internet Explorer (otherwise known as PIE) includes the option to force a page into a single-column layout, making reading easier since one now only has to scroll vertically.
  • VGA (640×480) screen resolution is now supported in addition to the previous 320×240 resoution. Also supported is a new square form factor (240×240 and 480×480 for VGA screens), which is ideally suited for manufacturers wishing to include a hardware keyboard. Although it wasn't originally slated to contain this feature, Microsoft decided to add it due to pressure from Pocket PC manufacturers.
  • Support for Wi-Fi Protected Access.

Windows Mobile 2003SE is powered by Windows CE 4.21.

Windows Mobile 5.0[]


Windows Mobile 5.0 screen.

Windows Mobile 5.0, originally codenamed "Magneto", was released on May 9, 2005. It is powered by Windows CE 5.0 and uses the .NET Compact Framework 1.0 SP2 — an environment for programs based on .NET to be used. Features include:

  • A new version of Office called "Office Mobile"
    • PowerPoint Mobile has been added
    • Excel Mobile adds graphing capability
    • Word Mobile adds tables and graphics insertion
  • Windows Media Player 10 Mobile
  • Photo Caller ID
  • Picture and Video package, which converges the management of videos and pictures
  • Bluetooth support with fewer features than prior Broadcom/Widcom alternatives
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) management interface to all navigation programs installed
  • Microsoft Exchange Server "push" functionality improvements - Improvements only function with Exchange 2003 SP2 installed: The "push" functionality also requires vendor/device support:, with the Palm Treo and Motorola Q scheduled to receive support with Q1 2006 firmware updates.
  • QWERTY keyboard-support is included by default
  • Error reporting facility similar to that present in desktop and server Windows systems
  • ActiveSync 4.0, promising 10–15% increased speed on synchronization
  • Client for PPTP and L2TP/IPsec VPNs.
  • Persistent storage (PS) is now supported in Pocket PCs allowing devices increase battery life. Previously up to 50% (enough for 72 hours of storage) of battery power was reserved just to maintain data in volatile RAM. Windows-based devices are moving from using RAM as their primary storage medium to the use of flash memory.

Windows Mobile 5.0, was released at Microsoft's Mobile and Embedded Developers Conference 2005 in Las Vegas, May 9–May 12, 2005.

Current speculation indicates that Microsoft is working on an update to Windows Mobile 5.0, which will be released in 2006 as "Windows Mobile 5.0 Second Edition" or perhaps "Windows Mobile 2006".[1]

Windows Mobile 6.0[]

Windows 6

Windows Mobile 6.0 screen

Windows Mobile 6, formerly codenamed "Crossbow", was released on February 12, 2007 at the 3GSM World Congress 2007. It comes in three different versions: "Windows Mobile 6 Standard" for Smartphones (phones without touchscreens), "Windows Mobile 6 Professional" for Pocket PCs with phone functionality, and "Windows Mobile 6 Classic" for Pocket PCs without cellular radios.

Windows Mobile 6 is powered by Windows CE 5.0 (version 5.2) and is strongly linked to Windows Live and Exchange 2007 products. Windows Mobile 6 Standard was first offered on the Orange's SPV E650, while Windows Mobile 6 Professional was first offered on the O2's Xda Terra. Aesthetically, Windows Mobile 6 was meant to be similar in design to the then newly released Windows Vista.

New features/built-in applications include the following:

  • 320x320 and 800x480 (WVGA) screen resolution support
  • Office Mobile support for Smartphones
  • Operating System Live Update
  • Improved Remote Desktop access(Available for only certain Pocket PCs)
  • VoIP (Internet calling) support with AEC (Acoustic Echo Cancelling) and MSRT Audio Codec
  • Windows Live for Windows Mobile
  • Customer Feedback option
  • Enhanced Microsoft Bluetooth Stack
  • Storage Card Encryption (encryption keys are lost if device is cold-booted).
  • Smartfilter for searching within programs
  • Improved Internet Sharing
  • HTML email support in Outlook Mobile
  • Search ability for contacts in an Exchange Server Address Book
  • AJAX, JavaScript, and XMLDOM support on Internet Explorer Mobile
  • Out of Office Replies with Microsoft Exchange 2007
  • Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) support for select operators
  • Server Search on Microsoft Exchange 2007
  • .NET Compact Framework v2 SP2 Preinstalled in ROM
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition Preinstalled in ROM
  • OneNote Mobile as a companion to Microsoft Office OneNote
  • Office Mobile 6.1 announced with support for Office 2007 document formats (pptx, docx, xlsx).

Windows Mobile 6.1[]

Windows Mobile 6.1 was announced April 1, 2008. It is a minor upgrade to the existing Windows Mobile 6 platform which brings with it a redesigned Home screen featuring horizontal tiles that expand on clicking to display more information, although this new home screen is featured only on Windows Mobile Standard edition. Several other improvements such as threaded SMS, full page zooming in IE and 'Domain Enroll' have also been added. Domain Enroll is functionality to connect the device to System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, a product to manage mobile devices.

Windows Mobile 6.5[]

Windows Mobile 6.5 was based on the Windows CE 5.x kernel and, also was a stopgap update to Windows Mobile 6.1 intended to bridge the gap between version 6.1 and the then yet-to-be released Windows Mobile 7 (Later canceled in favor of Windows Phone 7), that arrived in 2010. It was never part of Microsoft's mobile phone roadmap, and has been described by its chief executive, Steve Ballmer, as "not the full release Microsoft wanted" until the multi-touch-enabled Windows Mobile 7 (now replaced by Windows Phone) arrived in 2010. Ballmer also indicated that the company "screwed up with Windows Mobile", he lamented that Windows Mobile 7 was not yet available and that the Windows Mobile team needed to try to recoup losses. Microsoft unveiled this version at the 2009 Mobile World Congress in February, and several devices were supplied with it. It was released to manufacturers on May 11, 2009; the first devices running the operating system appeared in late October 2009. Several phones that officially shipped with Windows Mobile 6.1 can be officially updated to Windows Mobile 6.5. This update includes some significant new added features, such as a revamped GUI, a new Today screen resembling that of Microsoft's Zune player with vertically scrollable labels (called 'Titanium') in terms of functionality with a styling similar to that of Windows 7. WM 6.5 also includes the new Internet Explorer Mobile 6 browser, with improved interface.

Along with Windows Mobile 6.5, Microsoft announced several cloud computing services codenamed "SkyBox", "SkyLine", "SkyMarket". "SkyBox" has been confirmed as My Phone, while "SkyMarket" has been confirmed as Windows Marketplace for Mobile. This version was designed mainly for easier finger usage. Some reviewers have noted interface inconsistencies, with some applications having small buttons making them harder to operate using only a finger. Whilst this version of Windows Mobile does not natively support capacitive screens, mobile manufacturers have been able to use them on their devices

In the months following this release, development shifted from Windows Mobile to its successor Windows Phone. As such no major upgrades were planned or released, although three minor updates; 6.5.1, 6.5.3 and 6.5.5; were made to satisfy consumers during the transition period. 6.5.1 brings larger user interface elements, including icon based soft buttons (rather than text based), an updated contacts app, native support for A-GPS, improved threaded text messaging, and performance improvements. It was unofficially ported to several Windows Mobile phones.

The second minor update was announced on February 2, 2010, along with the Sony Ericsson Aspen which was the first phone to use this version. 6.5.3 continues the trend of attempting to provide a more finger-friendly user interface with several new usability features such as native support for multitouch; although device maker HTC Corporation created proprietary work-arounds to allow multi-touch to work on some applications it installed on its HD2 handset (However, Microsoft applications on this handset, such as the Internet Explorer web browser, did not support multi-touch.) and drag-and-drop start menu icons. Touchable tiles replaced soft keys." Internet Explorer Mobile 6 has also received some major updates including decreased page load time, improved memory management and gesture smoothing. As with other updates it was unofficially ported to some other devices. Additional features include threaded email and Office Mobile 2010.

The last minor update and the last released version is 6.5.5. It first leaked in January 2010, and was unofficially ported to some Windows Mobile phones. The name Windows Mobile 6.5.5 has been applied to these newer builds, although this name remained unconfirmed by Microsoft.

Although Microsoft released a similarly-named Windows 10 Mobile in 2015, this operating system is unrelated to the former Windows Mobile operating systems.

On January 8, 2013, Microsoft Stopped Supporting Windows Mobile 6.5


There are three main versions of Windows Mobile for various hardware devices:

  • Windows Mobile Professional runs on smartphones with touchscreens,
  • Windows Mobile Standard runs on mobile phones without touchscreens,
  • Windows Mobile Classic which runs on personal digital assistant or Pocket PCs.

Windows Mobile for Automotive and Windows Mobile software for Portable Media Centers are among some specialty versions of the platform.

Microsoft had over 50 handset partners, when Windows Mobile was still being shipped on new devices. 80% of the 50 million Windows Mobile devices that were made from launch to February 2009 were built by one contract manufacturing group, HTC, which makes handsets for several major companies under their brands, and under its own brand.

Embedded Handheld[]

On January 10, 2011, Microsoft announced Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5. The operating system has compatibility with Windows Mobile 6.5 and is presented as an enterprise handheld device, targeting retailers, delivery companies, and other companies that rely on handheld computing. Unlike Windows Phone, Windows Embedded Handheld retains backward compatibility with legacy Windows Mobile applications.

Pocket PCs[]

Pocket PCs and personal digital assistants were originally the intended platform for Windows Mobile. These were grouped into two main categories: devices that lacked mobile phone capabilities, and those that included it. Beginning with version 6 devices with this functionality ran "Windows Mobile 6 Professional" and those that lacked it ran "Windows Mobile 6 Classic". Microsoft had described these devices as "a handheld device that enables you to store and retrieve e-mail, contacts, appointments, play multimedia files, games, exchange text messages with MSN Messenger, browse the Web, and more". From a technical standpoint Microsoft also specified various hardware and software requirements such as the inclusion of a touchscreen and a directional pad or touchpad.


Smartphones were the second hardware platform after Pocket PC to run Windows Mobile, and debuted with the release of Pocket PC 2002. Although in the broad sense of the term "Smartphone", both Pocket PC phones and Microsoft branded Smartphones each fit into this category. Microsoft's use of the term "Smartphone" includes only more specific hardware devices that differ from Pocket PC phones. Such Smartphones were originally designed without touchscreens, intended to be operated more efficiently with only one hand, and typically had lower display resolution than Pocket PCs. Microsoft's focus for the Smartphone platform was to create a device that functioned well as a phone and data device in a more integrated manner.

Naming conventions for each version
Pocket PC
(without Mobile Phone)
Pocket PC
(with Mobile Phone)
(without touch screen)
Pocket PC 2000 Pocket PC 2000 Pocket PC 2000 Phone Edition N/A
Pocket PC 2002 Pocket PC 2002 Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition Smartphone 2002
Windows Mobile 2003 Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone
Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC SE Windows Mobile 2003 SE for Pocket PC Phone Edition Windows Mobile 2003 SE for Smartphone
Windows Mobile 5.0 Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC Windows Mobile 5.0 for Pocket PC Phone Edition Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone
Windows Mobile 6 Windows Mobile 6 Classic Windows Mobile 6 Professional Windows Mobile 6 Standard
Windows Mobile 6.1 Windows Mobile 6.1 Classic Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
Windows Mobile 6.5 N/A Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional Windows Mobile 6.5 Standard

Market share[]

Windows Mobile market share
Year U.S. market share
2004 11.3%
2005 17%
2006 37%
2007 42%
2008 27%
2009 15%
2010 7%
2011 3%
present <1%

Windows Mobile's share of the smartphone market grew from its inception while new devices were being released. After it's peaking in 2007, it saw decline year-on-year.

In Q1 2003, Windows Mobile was the third largest operating system in the smart handheld market, behind Symbian and Palm OS.

In Q1 2004, Windows Mobile accounted for 23% of worldwide smartphone sales. Windows Mobile was projected in 2005 to overtake Symbian to become the leading mobile OS by 2010. In Q3 2004, Windows Mobile (CE) surpassed Palm OS to become the largest PDA operating system.

In Q4 2005 Microsoft shipped 2.2 million PDAs, which increased to 3.5 million in the same quarter the following year. Windows Mobile saw year over year growth between 2005 and 2006 of 38.8% which according to Gartner "helped Windows Mobile to solidify its stronghold on the market".

But by 2008, its share had dropped to 14%. Microsoft licensed Windows Mobile to four out of the world's five largest mobile phone manufacturers, with Nokia being the exception.

Gartner research data showed that while the total smartphone industry grew 27% between 2008 and 2009, Windows Mobile's share of the smartphone market fell 2.7% in that same period. It also decreased by 20% in Q3 2009. At one time Windows Mobile was the most popular handset for business use, but by 2009 this was no longer the case; 24% of planned business deployments of mobile application in the United States were for Windows Mobile, putting it in 3rd place, behind BlackBerry (61%) and iPhone OS (27%);

In February 2009, Microsoft signed a deal with the third largest mobile phone maker, LG Electronics, to license Windows Mobile OS on 50 upcoming LG smartphone models. But in September 2009, Palm, Inc. announced it would drop Windows Mobile from its smartphone line-up. Gartner estimated that by the third quarter of 2009 Windows Mobile's share of worldwide smartphone sales was 7.9%. By August 2010, it was the least popular smartphone operating system, with a 5% share of the worldwide smartphone market (after Symbian, BlackBerry OS, Android and iOS). An October 2009 report in DigiTimes said that Acer will shift its focus from Windows Mobile to Google Android. The New York Times reported in 2009 that Windows Mobile "is foundering", as cellphone makers desert it in favor of Google's Android phone platform. It cited the difficulties in Microsoft's business model, which involves charging handset manufacturers up to $25 for each copy of Windows Mobile, while rival Google gives away Android for free. From late 2009 analysts and media reports began to express concerns about the future viability of the Windows Mobile platform, and whether Microsoft would keep supporting it into the future. Samsung announced in November 2009 that it would phase out the Windows Mobile platform, to concentrate on its own Bada operating system, Google's Android, and Microsoft's Windows Phone.
A Ford Territory with Windows Mobile advertising seen in Auckland, New Zealand, in 2008

Software development[]

Software could be developed by third parties for the Windows Mobile operating system. Developers had several options for deploying mobile applications. These included writing native code with Visual C++, managed code that worked with the .NET Compact Framework, writing code in Tcl-Tk with eTcl, GCC using CeGCC, Python using PythonCE or server-side code that could be deployed using Internet Explorer Mobile or a mobile client on a user's device. The .NET Compact Framework was a subset of the .NET Framework and hence shared many components with software development on desktop clients, application servers, and web servers which had the .NET Framework installed, thus integrating networked computing space.

To aid developers Microsoft released software development kits (SDKs) that worked in conjunction with their Visual Studio development environment. These SDKs included emulator images for developers to test and debug their applications while writing them. Software could be tested on a client machine directly or be downloaded to a device. Microsoft also distributed Visual Studio 2008 / 2005 Professional Editions, and server/database counterparts to students as downloads free of charge via its DreamSpark program. Third party integrated development environments could also be used to write software such as Lazarus, Resco MobileForms Toolkit, Lexico, NS Basic and Basic4ppc. Some third party development environments allowed coding to be done on the device itself without the need for a computer.

Developer communities have used the SDK to port later versions of Windows Mobile OS to older devices and making the OS images available for free, thus providing the devices with newer feature sets. Microsoft had tolerated this procedure for some time but decided in February 2007 to ask developers to take their OS images off the net, which in turn raised discussions. At the same time Microsoft offered upgrades to Windows Mobile 6 versions to manufacturers for free.

On July 5, 2009, Microsoft opened a third-party application distribution service called Windows Marketplace for Mobile. In 2011, Windows Marketplace for Mobile stopped accepting new admissions. and then fully closed on May 9, 2012.


In the early years of Windows Mobile devices were able to be managed and synced from a remote computer using ActiveSync; a data synchronization technology and protocol developed by Microsoft, originally released in 1996. This allowed servers running Microsoft Exchange Server, or other third party variants, to act as a personal information manager and share information such as email, calendar appointments, contacts or internet favorites.

With the release of Windows Vista, ActiveSync was replaced with Windows Mobile Device Center. Device Center is included with Vista and Windows 7 and provides many front end enhancements, allowing a home user to sync PIM information with Microsoft Outlook 2003 and later, photos from Windows Photo Gallery, videos or music from Windows Media Player and favorites with Internet Explorer; without the need for a server back end. Devices at this time also included a base driver compatible with Mobile Device Center so a user can connect to a computer without a need for any configuration.

External links[]

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