On March 15 the Sprint Palm Treo Pro officially goes on sale, and I've been testing a production unit for the past few weeks. It's basically the same Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone as the unlocked Treo Pro that I tested in late 2008. But the addition of Microsoft's new mobile browser makes this release notable.
Sprint is the first carrier to ship the Treo Pro with Microsoft's Internet Explorer Mobile 6 browser, which will soon become available on other Windows Mobile 6.1 handsets as well. IE Mobile 6 brings more of a desktop browsing experience to mobile devices -- and therefore easier access to enterprise Web applications.
To quickly recap the other Treo Pro features, on the hardware side you get a high-resolution touch screen (resistive), a physical QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi, and GPS -- plus support for Sprint's EV-DO Rev. A mobile broadband network.
Unlike with the plain unlocked version, Sprint includes exclusive features and services, a few of which should benefit mobile professionals. Sprint Navigation (for an extra monthly charge) provides turn-by-turn, voice-guided, and on-screen driving directions. Sprint IM lets you access Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and MSN Messenger.
Sprint TV, Multimedia Messaging Service, and Music -- included at no extra cost -- are more for entertainment or keeping in contact with family and friends.
Mobile browser throwdown
For years Windows Mobile has included Pocket Internet Explorer 4, old technology that was designed for viewing mobile Web sites on the small screens of devices with little memory. Obviously, the past 18 months have seen massive changes in screen sizes, processor power, and available memory on handhelds. And Microsoft has been taken to task for not engineering Internet Explorer Mobile to make use of these new technologies. IE Mobile 6 partially makes amends.
IE Mobile 6 uses the same rendering engine as IE 6 on the desktop. That's important because many enterprise applications are written for IE 6, and now those sites should finally render properly. Indeed, after selecting the desktop mode (the old mobile setting remains an option), my intranet sites appeared properly.
Also a plus, IE Mobile 6 operates much like the old version, with the important addition of new menu options for viewing pages. For instance, with a full page displayed, I can move a rectangle to zero in on a section, then touch the area to zoom in completely so that text is readable. You can also use the zoom-in and zoom-out menu commands (in combination with finger or stylus gestures) to move around a page at different scales.