Will Windows Mobile 7 pull me back in?

Will Windows Mobile 7 pull me back in?

Summary: One of my favorite lines in a movie is:"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."[points if you know the movie]Lately it seems that this line perfectly describes how I feel about Windows Mobile.


One of my favorite lines in a movie is:

"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."

[points if you know the movie]

Lately it seems that this line perfectly describes how I feel about Windows Mobile. I've had a love / hate relationship with Windows Mobile since its inception. Early on I was treated to a demo of the first ever Windows Mobile / Pocket PC phone then code-named "Stinger". I was in love with how easily you could manage your contacts, calendar, send and receive e-mails, all from something with the form factor of a candybar phone. It was light years ahead of its time.

Fast forward to present day and where is Windows Mobile? I reviewed a number of Windows Mobile phones recently, in hopes of finding some positive things to talk about, with regard to Windows Mobile. In most cases it had been an evolutionary step and not revolutionary for Windows Mobile, with the exception of what HTC was able to bake on top of the Windows Mobile experience, as evidenced by the work it performed with the HD2.

So, where are we now, as we prepare to finally hear all about what Windows Mobile 7 has to offer at Mobile World Congress? The folks over at PPCGeeks claim to have an exclusive on what Windows Mobile 7 will have to offer. Included in that list is a new UI which is rumored to be very similar to the Zune HD interface, no Flash support, no ability to install an app via storage card, no multitask support--apps will pause in the background and offer notifications, no backwards compatibility, full Zune integration, Zune Desktop software as the interface for syncing with PC, no OEM interfaces, XBOX Gaming Integration (gamer tag, achievements, friends, avatars, merchandising), and social networking support. This is just a sampling, apparently, but let's go with what we have so far since this is the most concise list of rumors.

  • New UI: Finally! This will be a welcome change, but I'm puzzled at the lack of OEM interface support. OEMs love to customize and as I mentioned above, I think the best thing that could have happened to Windows Mobile was the innovation that came from HTC on the platform. I also don't think that corporations will be too happy with having to deal with a new UI, but I don't even know of many corporations that are still using Windows Mobile devices.
  • Full Zune integration: One thing that has always troubled me with Windows Mobile is managing the media on my device. The Zune does that really well, so I think it's a step in the right direction for Windows Mobile to use the Zune interface instead.
  • XBOX Gaming Integration: I've been hearing about this one for years. If Microsoft gets it working right, it may get some hardcore XBOX gamers to switch to the new Windows Mobile just so that they can keep their gaming world tied to their mobile world.
  • No multitasking: What does this even mean these days? Windows Mobile has always multitasked, and in some iterations it did a terrible job at it. My guess is that multitasking will be present, but probably not the way we're used to today. It sounds more like some smart memory management, but we won't really know until we see how it all works together.
  • No backwards compatibility: This was a major negative for the Palm Pre before launch, but then around launch time the company announced a nice emulator that let you run all of your old Palm software. I would bet the same will happen with Windows Mobile, especially since if the company didn't support older apps, it would have even more catchup to do in the App Store game.

One of the last things that kept me hanging on to Windows Mobile was my ability to customize how I worked with my device. If Windows Mobile 7 is limiting what the OEM can do, I hope that the consumer will still be able to enjoy the same level of control present in today's Windows Mobile. If not, it's definitely going to be hard for me to switch back to Windows Mobile as a primary phone. Unfortunately, I fear that my customization days are over, as evidenced by what came in Windows Mobile 6.5 and 6.5.3 and how I could barely customize how my app launch screen behaved.

The big question is whether or not Microsoft is now too late to the game. Is this basically the Zune phone, borrowing from the interface, according to the rumors? If so, is this what consumers want? In my experience, not too many people outside of Seattle even know what the Zune HD is, so I'm not sure that's going to buy Microsoft too much market share.

I think if Windows Mobile 7 had come out almost immediately after the iPhone, Microsoft would have a chance. As it stands now, though, anything that the company puts out there is going to be held up against the iPhone first (since people love to call things iPhone killers), then BlackBerry, Android, Palm, Nokia, etc.

We don't have much longer to wait, with Mobile World Congress coming next week. Chime in with your thoughts below and I'll be sure to report in with mine once we know for sure what Microsoft has planned.

Topics: Operating Systems, Hardware, Microsoft, Mobile OS, Mobility, Software, Wi-Fi, Windows

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

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  • So...

    ...no UI customization, no mulit-tasking, no flash support, no ability to install apps on memory cards, syncs only through a MS approved app. Sounds like all the stuff I already don't like about my iPhone without and of the Apple glitz and polish.

    The reasons I'd ditch my iPhone are customization, the ability to run any apps I want regardless of source, the ability to directly access any and all files and folders on the phone, and the ability to use the software of my choice to manage apps and music on the phone. Why would I change one walled garden for another?
    • I hear ya...

      That is the exact reason I moved to a Droid. I was a WinMo user for years, but the lack of customization options, applications, ease of use finally drove me away. I have so far been very pleased with the android platform, although I hope Microsoft will port their mobile office suite to the android.
      Evil Tweety
      • Lack of customizations options, applications?

        Really, I doubt you've ever used Windows Mobile, or you don't know
        anything about Windows Mobile.
        Ram U
  • business model

    even if windows mobile would be a decent upgrade and
    would not lack too far behind the iphone os and android, there
    is still the business model problem. why should any handset
    maker buy a windows mobile license if
    it is not better than the free android or symbian?

    it has to be much better to justify a price (when android is
    even better than free with revenue sharing possibilities built
    in) and that is unlikely.
  • That movie would be

    The Godfather.

    As for the rest, I know of a few companies that use Windows Mobile, the rest a hodgepodge of various phones and devices.

    But none of the people using them I know "love" their phones, they are mearley devices that get the job done, one way or another.

    I am looking forward to WinMobile 7 simply because my current WinMobile phone "just works", which is all I ask of any device I purchase.
  • The Godfather, Part III

    [i]"Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in."[/i]

    Yes, Al Pacino spoke those words in The Godfather, Part III. Trying to be just as dramatic, Jason Alexander also spoke those words on an episode of Seinfeld (as George Costanza). It was a riot! So what do I get? (Just kidding.)

    I wouldn't be surprised if Windows Mobile 7 winds up looking close to <a href=http://www.istartedsomething.com/20100208/location-based-operating-system-concept-locus-os/>this</a>, and allow for some user customization. <a href=http://wmpoweruser.com/?p=13039>This article</a> indicates that Windows Mobile 7 won't be customizable initially, but will be customizable by 2011. Regarding multitasking, it is hard to believe there won't be any. Maybe there won't be any initially, but there will be eventually.
    P. Douglas
  • Mimic Google

    Google dictates the specs and the manufactures just make it. Microsoft if taking from their planbook and it just might work.
  • RE: Will Windows Mobile 7 pull me back in?

    I've been with WinMo since 5.0, but if there is no multi-tasking in 7 I'm out of there.
    The launch screen had gone steadily backwards, my best was T-mobile Vario 3 about 4 years ago. Compact 4 (running 6.1) and Compact 5 (running 6.5) have been dumbed-down and are a lot less programmable and user-friendly.
    Adios Windows...........
    • A phone, all I need is a phone

      Windows Mobile is not a real time operating system. It will decide on its priorities and if it judges that it is doing more important things than answering your call it will drop it. That happened all the time till I finally put my HTC in the drawer, swearing I will never use a device based on a diluted version of a PC OS.
  • MS is clueless and the last thing that I care about is a Zune interface

    The best thing that MS could do is contract HTC to redefine Windows Mobile because MS is not up to the task. MS is too heavily invested in their prior work. Just how is any Zune code going to help the Windows mobile 7 platform? New flash: No one cares about Zune and most of the market owns an iPod, Windows 7 is not going to change that. No one is going to dump their iPod just because they own a Windows mobile phone. Worry about saving MS's remaining share of the cell phone market (what there is of it) and worry about the Zune share only after MS addresses the WM7 problems.
    • marketshare != quality

      Have you used a Zune HD? The UI is actually quite nice.
    • ...

      Windows Mobile is 3rd largest sold with having more than 10 million
      sales. the real issue for Microsoft is market fragmentation and which
      Google is also facing or about to face. Too many OEMs, Too many
      versions and Too many devices to update. On the other hand Apple is
      successful because it doesn't have market fragmentation and it controls
      Ram U
  • RE: Will Windows Mobile 7 pull me back in?

    Here's hoping WM7 lives up to the hipe! I just
    went back and read my blog post that I wrote
    about my HTC 8125 running Windows Mobile 5.0.


    I thought it was pretty impressive! (Granted
    this was 8 months prior to the iPhone launch)
  • Great job MS, copy the iPhone's shortcomings without

    having any of the style or RDF effects to help you sell it.

    This is going to flop really bad.
  • Good LORD, this will SUCK!

    I see it now, Windoze Mobile permanently discontinued. One step forward, four steps back.
    • Sorry to thrash your dream

      Windows Mobile will not be dead as long as Microsoft produces Windows
      CE. And for your information Windows CE 8.0 is already under
      Ram U
  • Aaaaah Microsoft

    Late to the Internet
    Late to search
    Late to music
    Late to the world of mobile apps.

    If they started from a position of catching up
    and came up with new ideas that would be one
    thing. Instead they start with nothing and it

    Sorry Microsoft, I'm looking at other mobile
    • Microsoft fights dirty.

      Late to operating system - won anyway. (unix, CPM)
      Late to GUI interface - won anyway. (Mac)
      Late to word processing - won anyway. (Wordperfect)
      Late to spreadsheets - won anyway. (Visicalc, 1-2-3)
      Late to Web browsers - won anyway. (Netscape)

      Nice guys don't finish first.