O2â€™s XDA range has established the operator as a firm friend of the Pocket PC side of Windows Mobile, and the Xda Exec is another unabashed manifestation of the bond. But it is much more than just another device in a product line. Itâ€™s a groundbreaker.
Previous Xda models took a basic theme and developed it. The original Xda was followed by the Xda II adding more memory and Bluetooth. Then came the Xda IIs and IIi, released in close succession of each other, both finally adding 802.11 and generally sprucing up the specs, and the former dropping in a little slide out keyboard in an attempt to grab some market from RIMâ€™s BlackBerry.
There is a logic to the addition of the Xda Exec to the range in that it brings 3G into the mix and updates the operating system to Windows Mobile 5, but thereâ€™s also a big surprise in that the hardware accommodates a large (well, large for a PDA) keyboard and a Tablet PC style mode of operation.
The Xda Exec is a clamshell device. Open it up and you have a mini laptop, with 3.8in screen at 640 x 480 pixels. The screen is bright and clear and the extra pixels really help. Sadly there are only 65,000 colours, but this is not really a problem.
Beneath sits the keyboard with full qwerty key layout, a number row, and above this a half-height double-width row of shortcut keys. The shortcut keys let you start and end voice calls, start a video call and jump to your contacts. Two more keys in this row act as soft menu buttons. Soft menus are a new feature in Windows Mobile 5. They are context sensitive, meaning that what they offer depends on the application you are currently using, and often on where you are within that application.