The browser in Version 6.5 provides a built-in Flash video player as well as pan and zoom capabilities with the touch of a finger. It is built on HTML rendering done by Microsoft for its desktop Internet Explorer 7 version, Sullivan said.
Microsoft's recently announced My Phone sync and backup service will also ship with the 6.5 phones. That service will give users 200MB of free storage, which is useful for users who want to store e-mail or other data for transfer to another device.
Microsoft also plans to launch an application store similar to Apple's AppStore and other online storefronts from other operating system providers. It will be called Windows Marketplace for Mobile and will allow a user to control the applications from both the phone and the Web.
Two analysts gave Microsoft credit for recognizing the need to improve the user experience with 6.5.
"The cleaned-up interface in 6.5 is the most important thing they could have possibly done," said Philippe Winthrop at Strategy Analytics. "Is it slick like an iPhone? No. But it's not meant to be."
Winthrop said Microsoft has held on to its operating system because it is practical for business users as well as IT shops that need to manage the devices in a secure way. But criticism about the current Windows Mobile interface, which Winthrop called "kludgy," means that Microsoft needs to get 6.5 shipping "as soon as possible" to remain competitive.
He said one often-criticized feature in 6.1 -- the long time it takes to boot the operating system -- does not seem to have been significantly improved in 6.5. Sullivan said he didn't know if the boot time in the shipping version of 6.5 will be reduced compared to 6.1.
"Microsoft has always done better at understanding the needs of IT, but now is crossing over to pay attention to the needs of the end user," said Sean Ryan, an analyst at IDC. "It is crucial that they do well."