The Windows Mobile operating system opened a new world to developers of Enterprise Mobility applications, and is still broadly used by many in business. Here’s a rearview mirror of Windows Mobile that also peeks into the future.
We tend to read articles about new stuff. Our world is about new devices, new operating systems, new applications and new use cases. Over the last few days we have all read the breaking news from CES 2017. But this article is about something completely different: it reviews the status and future of an old, but very important OS, namely Windows Mobile.
Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded Handheld
It has now been ten years since Microsoft released Windows Mobile 6 – the current version still widely used for many critical enterprise applications. Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5, based on Windows Mobile 6.5, is 6 years old (yeah, don’t get me started on Microsoft naming…). Those of you who have been in the business for some time remember – and have mixed feelings about – its predecessor PocketPC…
Here are two blog posts from 2011 about the release of WEH 6.5…
…and this is what Microsoft says about the same OS today:
Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5
We must keep in mind that Windows Mobile was a dominant force for Enterprise Mobility with numerous applications developed for it, for lots of different businesses – and massive investments were put into these systems.
It was the first mobile operating system, with reasonable development support, suitable for business-critical field worker applications. Of course, there were mobile applications before windows mobile – but with Windows Mobile the market opened and development of mobile applications became more mainstream, with .NET Compact Framework, Visual studio, etc.
A further proof of the strength of WEH 6.5 is the fact that the same version has been used for so many years. Let me share a couple of trends for WEH 6.5 that will play out in 2017.
Still widely used – and supported
There are tons of business-critical applications running on Windows Mobile/WEH today, and you encounter Windows Mobile applications quite frequently among business users. The operating system, and the applications, may be old – but they are still important, used and functioning well.
“Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5” is supported by Microsoft. The extended support from Microsoft ends on January 14, 2020. The same goes for PocketMobile, of course, since we continue to support our Windows Mobile customers.
The hardware challenge
A central component in all mobile systems is the device. The phone, PDA or tablet used by the field workforce. This is beginning to be a real challenge for Windows Mobile users. Many existing devices are aging and starting to fall apart. Repairing these device is difficult due to lack of spare parts.
There are exceptions; some companies (like Zebra and others) still have support agreements and can repair and replace Windows Mobile devices.
Migration to something new
Needless to say – migration from WEH 6.5 to something else is not a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when” and we know for certain that many companies are already in the process of migrating from Windows Mobile. A trend that will gather momentum in 2017.
Such a migration can be done in various ways – from simply adding new client types alongside the existing Windows Mobile solutions to a full mobility system replacement.
PocketMobile has a great deal of experience with this and we will elaborate on this challenge and share our philosophy regarding updating from Windows Mobile in an upcoming article.