Microsoft has announced plans to upgrade Windows Mobile by the end of 2008, including the introduction of a new version of Internet Explorer that will bring desktop-browsing to smartphones.

The new version of Internet Explorer (IE) Mobile will make it easier to pan and zoom through web pages and to access the web at the outset from a phone, said John Traynor, senior director of mobile communications at Microsoft. "It's going to be much closer to the desktop experience," he said.

Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) technologies such as Adobe Flash, H. 264 video and Microsoft Silverlight will be added to the new IE Mobile, Microsoft said.

Other innovations announced at the CTIA Wireless 2008 exhibition include a 6.1 version of Windows Mobile, the first update since 6.0 was announced in February 2007. It should appear on smartphones in the second half of the year and will offer quicker phone setup and one-click setup of a Bluetooth headset. In addition, users will find it easier to flag, delete or move groups of text messages, Traynor said.

For IT managers, the biggest improvement Microsoft announced is System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008, available immediately through mobile operators. When used with Windows Mobile 6.1 devices, IT managers can bring more management functions and security to Windows Mobile phones than are currently possible, Traynor said.

Previously, IT managers had to rely on ActiveSync in Microsoft Exchange to manage Windows Mobile phones, Traynor said. Device Manager 2008 provides more than 100 management capabilities not previously available, he said. It will enable IT administrators to allow or deny certain applications to run on a phone, such as turning off a phone's camera. In addition, it will allow encryption of information on a storage card used in a phone, so that if the card is removed from the device, it remains encrypted, Traynor said. Microsoft said it would announce the first mobile operators offering the management capabilities Tuesday. Details, including pricing, were not released.

See also:

First look: Windows Mobile 6.0

Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney said the new management capabilities will keep Windows Mobile among the most secure and manageable devices on the market, along with BlackBerry devices from Research In Motion. It will help Windows Mobile keep a management advantage over the iPhone, he added, noting that it takes management beyond what will be available in ActiveSync through Exchange.

With Windows Mobile 6.1, Microsoft is taking the steps needed to strengthen its offering to both consumers and enterprise customers, said analyst Ben Bajarin of Creative Strategies. "With 6.1, they have made some appealing updates to the user interface and web browsing that appeal to a broader consumer audience as well," he said.

"In a market where the consumers are becoming increasingly important, and Apple and RIM are clearly going after both, Microsoft has no choice but to continue to strengthen its presence and product appeal to anyone considering a new mobile device," Bajarin said.