The latest version of Windows Mobile will make it easier for IT managers to manage devices and offer greater usability for mobile workers, claimed the company.

Windows Mobile 6.1 will offer users Exchange connectivity to both IMAP and POP mailboxes, as well as auto-discovery features that will speed up the process of connecting to Bluetooth or other networks, Microsoft's Alec Taylor said. Microsoft has embedded the most common passcodes for client devices, so that all users would need is an email address. This will be much faster than what IT managers would experience in setting up BlackBerry devices using RIM's BES, he said.

The OS will also feature tight integration with Microsoft's System Center Mobile Device Manager 2008 management software. As a result, Taylor said, IT managers can control what users are doing with devices. An IT manager might want to lock down the text function on a phone within a brokerage firm, for instance, or disable the camera function for those passing through a high-security facility.

"IT guys step in and want to know they can manage risk," he said. "This allows them to manage on an exception basis."

Taylor also said customers could reasonably expect new versions of Windows Mobile approximately once every 18 months. This reflects the much faster refresh cycles Microsoft is seeing within its installed base compared to the desktop segment, he said.

"We're seeing developers upgrade every six to 12 months," he said. "The cost of the device is becoming an afterthought compared with the value in terms of productivity."