Microsoft CTO lauds BlackBerry, iPod

Microsoft CTO lauds BlackBerry, iPod

Summary: The man who develops Microsoft's technology strategy along with Bill Gates now appears to have his eye on function-specific devices

TOPICS: Hardware

Microsoft's chief technology officer this week eulogised over the Blackberry email device and Apple iPod in front of an audience of IT directors and developers. In addition to owning a Blackberry and loving the iPod, David Vaskevitch said he always carries a digital camera, but he didn't mention using one of Microsoft's own Pocket PC devices.

Vaskevitch, who reports directly to chairman Bill Gates and is responsible for developing a strategy and architecture for future Microsoft platforms, was speaking on a discussion panel on wireless devices at the user and developer conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. According to Vaskevitch, he carries an Apple iPod, a Research in Motion's BlackBerry email device and a digital camera when travelling because each device is tailored to specific job, and does that job very well.

The comments raised speculation among his audience that Microsoft may have an eye on developing more specific devices.

However, when Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive, launched the previous version of Pocket PC, one of his main selling points was that the mobile OS could do the job of multiple devices -- especially the basics such as retrieve emails and play multimedia files.

"The thing I put in my pocket has got to do more for me," Ballmer said, admitting that earlier devices "fell way, way, way, way, way short in terms of customer experience."

Less than six months after Microsoft launched its newest mobile OS, Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC, Vaskevitch was keen to point out to the delegates how useful it is to have devices with specific functionality: "I love the idea that I can have music with me wherever I go and the iPod can clip onto my belt -- the same thing makes the BlackBerry work so well. You can lose a lot because of the form factor, but what you gain more than makes up for what you lose," he said.

Vaskevitch was keen to point out that the BlackBerry did not run Pocket PC: "It is not a Microsoft device and does not use any Microsoft software," he said.

When asked what the ultimate mobile, wireless device would be, Vaskevitch said the question is impossible to answer: "It would be like asking you to pick between an aeroplane and a car. Go on, pick one. You can either have a car and drive to work everyday, but how do you get to London? Do you drive across the Bering Strait? Or you can pick the aeroplane, so now you can get to London, but try flying your aeroplane to work. It's an impossible choice to make because they have different functions and our lives are richer because we have access to both kinds of devices," he said.

James Governor, principal analyst at Redmonk, told ZDNet UK he was not surprised with Vaskevitch's choice: "He isn't the only person at Microsoft to decide that the Pocket PC isn't his ideal form factor. Virtually everyone in Microsoft owns an Orange SPV, but one of the complaints has been that the voice quality is substandard," he said.

Topic: Hardware

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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  • Finally - someone who gets it. All this talk about convergence completely overlooks the fact that some functions simply do not go together.

    I love my iPod - it carries my music and my data, making it my constant companion when I travel for work. But I don't carry it all the time.

    And I love my t68i - it's light and tiny and the battery lasts about a week in normal use. I DO carry it all the time and mostly I don't even notice it's there until it rings.

    I wouldn't buy a device which merged those two, even though they are both portable devices with little screens. They do what they are supposed to supremely well. I can use them when I want and more importantly, I can leave them on my desk when I want.

    Now if only MS could work out that the same applies to software, the world would be happier place.

    cheers, Mark
  • Handheld devices must converge full PC functionality with phone technology. Carrying around a pda and a phone is just not acceptable. The demand is there otherwise there wouldn't be a pda market. The current Microsoft PocketPC offering falls way short on the phone side (I use and xda), which is a shame. MS talking of developing specific devices smacks of taking 'the easy option'. Getting an operating system on a high volume system such as mobiles will eventually influence choice on PCs.
  • With apologies to Mr. Chandler, I believe you missed the whole point of the discussion. While it may be possible one day to have devices that "do it all," for a great many people, this is not the preferred outcome. I am with the MS CTO: I carry a PDA, a phone, an iPod, a camera - whatever I will be using. Most days I leave the good camera at home, but I have a smaller one (better than any phone or PDA cam I have seen to date) in my bag. It's not much larger than a mint tin, but takes great pictures - which is what cameras are for.

    I have a workmate who just shelled out over $600US for a Treo 650. It is a PDA cum phone cum camera cum laser pistol. The keys are so tiny that it's not really good for taking notes. The sound and reception are far worse than the Siemens S56 (which I got free with my phone contract), and the camera quality is less than half of what my tiny Minolta x20 will do. All told, I paid less than he did for my kit, and the only trade-off is my bag has more items and is a bit heavier. When he takes too many notes, he endangers his phone's ability to make and answer calls. I can take notes on my Tungsten|C (complete with WiFi) for hours and never compromise my phone's battery life (which, after 18 months, is already double the life of the brand-new Treo).

    The day may come when I will agree that a single device can handle everything, but that day is far, far away. We'll see flying cars, ubiquitous computers a la Star Trek, and phones the size of cuff links before power and reception and usability can all be had from one device. But, in many work environments, I think there will still be an argument for separate devices, even though we will be able to do it. This goes back to the article's train versus automobile analogy. You may, in your work style, desire convergence. Great. Buy a Treo. There are many others who do not hare your desire for a single device, and a wise market will product products for them as well. I have no problem with people who want converged devices. I have a problem with those people saying that no one can have separate devices, because convergence is how it must be. It's not one way or the other, it's both/and.

    Saying "Handheld devices must converge full PC functionality with phone technology. Carrying around a PDA and a phone is just not acceptable" as a demand for a market direction is leaving out that other segment of the market. Demanding convergence to the exclusion of discrete devices is not just short sighted - it's just plain wrong.