France Smartphone posted the two images you see to the right today as a preview of what’s to come in Windows Mobile 6.5. In case you missed it, Motorola let the cat out of the bad a couple weeks ago when they mentioned 6.5 as one of the OSes they had in their new slimmed down lineup for new devices. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed the existence of the operating system last week (seriously, why do they let him anywhere near a microphone?). 6.5 should should appear early to mid next year, and pave the way for Windows Mobile 7 by early 2010.
Take a good look at these screenshots. While they’re certainly good looking, they’re also certainly fakes. The biggest tip-offs are the color of the Start flag (colored in on one shot, white on the other) and the position of the signal strength and battery icons, which swap sides from one shot to the other. So while this might be a very good guess at what 6.5 might look like, it’s only a guess, and not leaked from Redmond.
Now that we know they’re not real, let’s see what they do tell us. The first one, a program launcher of sorts, uses the hex layout familiar to tabletop RPG folk instead of a more traditional rows and columns grid. Can you say trackball navigation? We know some of the new Moto devices use a Blackberry/G1-style trackball instead of a d-pad, and this is just the kind of UI I’d expect to take advantage of that. But since I don’t think most of the new devices are going to be trackball-based, I think we can skip that one.
But the second shot is far, far more interesting. Here we see the standard Windows Mobile Today screen, but laid out and navigated far more like the Zune interface. This makes sense, since we know that Microsoft plans to bring the Zune software platform to both Windows Mobile and X-Box eventually. If that effort were farther along that we thought, this would be a very credible look for Windows Mobile, a combining of the Zune UI with Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard’s “sliding panels” homescreen interface.
So while I’m convinced these shots aren’t real, I do think Microsoft should take a good long look at them as an example of how they could modernize the Windows Mobile experience without changing it so much that it’s not Windows Mobile anymore. After all, those of us who choose to use Windows Mobile today know the iPhone and Android are out there, and we picked Windows Mobile for a reason.