So Windows Embedded handheld 6.5 hit the market very quietly earlier this year, so quietly in fact that most of our customers have never heard of it.  Continuing the meandering theme of Mobile Operating Systems this week, I wanted to clear up a few questions we get asked about the new Microsoft Mobile OS and in particular if it is really the Windows Mobile 6.5 replacement.

Microsoft officially now produce 3 OS’s in their Mobile world and they’re best explained by a previous post on Windows Mobile Operating Systems and I would urge readers to just go there and have a quick read before reading on.  Essentially WEH 6.5 has taken the reigns from Windows Mobile 6.5 and any new Rugged PDA’s we see hitting the market now have this OS on them.

So what’s the point of WEH when Windows Phone 7 is here?

Told you to read the last post!!  Windows Phone 7 is a completely different OS designed for the smartphone market.  It’s so different to WEH and WM that you can pretty much think of it as a completely different OS.  The issue with WP7 in our rugged market is that it is designed to reflect the ever-changing and latest technology that consumer users want in their devices.  If you wrote a line of business application on WP7 and expected it to work in 2 years time you’d be very naive indeed!

So is WEH just WM renamed?

WEH is built on WM 6.5, as the name suggests, and it is totally backwards compatible with WM.  However there are some subtle changes and improvements to the way it handles input such as finger, stylus and biometric input and the screen sizes it supports.  To the layman it will very much seem like WM6.5 with a different name on it!

Are there any differences between WEH and WM?

In terms of the OS, not really, or at least none we could find for ourselves.  There do seem to be subtle changes to the gesture system and interfaces but nothing thats going to blow you out of the water, certainly for users not using the Rugged PDA for its OS interface.

Will my WM5 and 6 application port to it?

Microsoft say anything written for WM6.5 will no problems and you have a good chance of WM6.x and even some WM5.0 applications porting easily to WEH 6.5.  This is the idea of having an OS like this in the rugged market and one that will help users not get too locked in to hardware or anything else like that.  We have ported apps to WEH form WM5 and 6.x and we have had no issues above and beyond the issues you will have with WM6.5 (Believe me, there are a few!!).

There must be more changes than this surely!

Well yes there are a few, but I am going to be honest here, these have had to be gleaned form a mixture of Microsoft people, blogs and MSDN so take these at your own risk.  There is definitely better support for Device Management and WEH seems to have changes in its SDK for remote support like wiping etc.  I think Microsoft have made the device more compatible with their own MDM solution but our customers usually need MDM that will run a range of devices like Blackberries, iPhones and dare i say in this blog, Android devices.  We’ve not had any issues with our MDM solution we offer here with WEH at all.

Why do people keep referring to the Motorola ES400 having WEH 6.5?

We’re not sure, we asked the question of Moto and are still waiting for an answer.  You will see on a lot of US-based blogs that the ES400 has WEH.  The spec sheets for UK and European ES400’s all say WM6.5.  If anyone has OS build information they can share with a US device then I could confirm if it’s the same build core, however I doubt there will be too much different.  Actually the word on XDA is that Moto used a very early branch of WEH that could be called either OS so I would say that this typifies how similar the OS’s, how much confusion has been caused and that even device manufacturers are struggling with it!!

What happened to WEH 7?  Microsoft was going on about this all the time last year?

It was canned last year, totally taken off the roadmap and then we suddenly got WEH6.5.  I don;lt think the 2 OS’s are the same and at this moment in time we can’t shed any light on what will come next.  All I can say is the WEH has a committed support map form Microsoft up to 2014 or 2019 for paid support so it’s not going away and I am sure that something will be in on its way to replace the OS in a more comprehensive manner.

That’s it, everything we know here, keep the questions coming, we love them all!!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.