Palm Treo Pro & debut of IE Mobile 6

Microsoft's Internet Explorer Mobile 6 browser is more usable than its predecessor and a better fit with Web-based business apps, but it crashed on complex sites

However, the browser experience sometimes falls short. I prefer the modeless design and additional zoom steps of

Opera Mobile 9.5 beta (which I tested for comparison). Opera Mobile also renders pages about 20 percent faster compared to IE Mobile 6. On the flip side, Opera Mobile doesn't handle Flash natively, and the shipping version will cost you.

One of the most heated browser discussions involves Adobe Flash support -- which Microsoft addresses by licensing Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 and offering it to OEMs to install if they desire. The Sprint Palm Treo Pro includes Flash Lite, which lets me view Flash videos and sites that have Flash-based navigation.

But there's a lot more to this story, especially for developers. IE Mobile includes the JavaScript 5.7 engine from IE 8 beta. For testing, I developed a site using Adobe Dreamweaver that employed some fairly complex JavaScript and AJAX functionality. These pages also worked properly. IE Mobile 6, additionally, supports VBScript.

EV-DO test drive

The Sprint network in the Philadelphia area where I tested the Treo Pro gave me consistent connections at 1,000Kbps to 1,200Kbps, which is the upper end of the EV-DO Rev. A specifications. Put another way, loading my test site's home page required about five seconds -- a very good showing. For that same test page, my desktop's typical download time was two seconds.

In another test, streaming video from Sprint TV looked good and the audio stayed in sync with video.

One nice usability and performance combination is the integration of Microsoft Live applications. From the starting "Today" screen, I displayed Microsoft Live Search, Mail, and Instant Messenger. I easily scrolled through a summary of each, such as new mail, and then -- with one touch -- went online with the full application when needed.

The biggest challenge that I faced during testing IE 6 Mobile was accessing complex sites -- in particular Google applications, YouTube, and Facebook -- in desktop mode. There were consistent crashes, resulting in error reports. Granted, these sites are more consumer oriented, but they should work. They did function correctly with Opera Mobile. I asked Palm about the errors, and while the reps were very concerned, they didn't have an immediate solution.

I'll acknowledge that the Treo Pro, with its comparatively small 320-by-320-pixel screen, isn't the appropriate device for viewing sites designed with large desktop displays in mind. For business sites that employ Flash, graphics, and scripting -- but still optimized for smaller displays -- IE 6 Mobile is up to the task.

If you're shopping for a Windows Mobile-based handset, the Palm Treo Pro is one of the best. If you want the cost subsidized, and the IE Mobile 6 browser, Sprint's offering may be a solution.

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Mike Heck

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