My Phone: just one of the reasons I hope Microsoft saves Windows Mobile

My Phone: just one of the reasons I hope Microsoft saves Windows Mobile

Summary: I've been a fan of Windows Mobile since the first clunky SPV: I have a huge Outlook address book and being able to have all those numbers on my phone automatically, and read my email? That's been awesome for so many years that I can't imagine living without it.

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TOPICS: Windows
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I've been a fan of Windows Mobile since the first clunky SPV: I have a huge Outlook address book and being able to have all those numbers on my phone automatically, and read my email? That's been awesome for so many years that I can't imagine living without it. Being able to set to-do flags on my mobile email and file it into folders? Had that so long I'm actually more wishing I could set categories and pick dates for the flags than appreciating it. Being able to get updates for my handset - usually officially but always through XDA Developers? Invaluable and I wish I could get the same fast updates for my BlackBerry.

My favourite mobile browser, Skyfire, is only on WinMo and Symbian (and I am *not* about to switch to Symbian with it's 'how about cancel?' default for all commands); my favourite navigation software still has slightly more features on Windows Mobile than iPhone or Android - which confuses me every time I try to use CoPilot on iPhone. There's a better OneNote Mobile and Evernote on iPhone than on Windows Mobile, but I can't type at my usual hyperspeed on a touch keyboard (not even on a Storm 2).

And this morning I saw a funny stalker story about a guy creeping out a thief to get his iPhone back using the MobileMe service; I get that free with Microsoft MyPhone (the location, not the creeping out).

This is where MyPhone says my phone is right now (for reasons of not inviting the burglars, I'm not zooming in to the street!). myphone locationIt's not building level, because I haven't had GPS switched on recently, but I'm not paying a MobileMe subscription for the service either (I can pay when I want to lock, wipe, ring or pinpoint the phone rather than just check if I left it at a friend's house).

So I'm really hoping Microsoft can rescue Windows Mobile from the doldrums of opinion and developer disinterest this year. It's gone from being ahead of its time (smartphone apps when smartphone users didn't install more than one app) to looking dated as much because it's had features for so long as because the interface has been around for so long. Recent releases have felt like tinkering even when they've added significant features like HTML email. And when we ask a neat mobile tool developer like Callspark (unified social, private and public address book) or Xobni (personal data mining coming to BlackBerry very soon) if they'll do a version for Windows Mobile, they don't say 9% of the market isn't enough - they say they're not going to develop for Windows Mobile while the platform is in flux. That means the longer Microsoft clutches the secret of WinMo's future to its chest, the further it falls behind.

Windows Vista didn't kill Windows - because Windows 7 turned out to be so good. Windows Mobile 7 being so late could easily kill Windows Mobile if it disappoints because the ecosystem isn't strong enough to give WinMo the same second chance. I hope a recent rumour that WinMo might move into Steven Sinosfsky's Windows team is true; he can't raise the dead, and Windows Live still needs some more attention to revive it (no CardSpace support yet? A unified installer that tries to spam me with apps I already said I didn't want, another toolbar and a search default bait and switch? Good thing Windows Live Photo Gallery is so good). But someone at Microsoft needs to stand up and make Windows Mobile credible before everyone forgets that it's actually pretty good and all the developers go elsewhere. -Mary

Topic: Windows

Simon Bisson

About Simon Bisson

Simon Bisson is a freelance technology journalist. He specialises in architecture and enterprise IT. He ran one of the UK's first national ISPs and moved to writing around the time of the collapse of the first dotcom boom. He still writes code.

Mary Branscombe

About Mary Branscombe

Mary Branscombe is a freelance tech journalist. Mary has been a technology writer for nearly two decades, covering everything from early versions of Windows and Office to the first smartphones, the arrival of the web and most things inbetween.

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  • My Phone: just one of the reasons I hope Microsoft saves Windows Mobile

    It's too late. It's already dead!

    The Windows Mobile that you know, 6.x, is finished. We all know that. It will soon be replaced with a new and incompatible platform, with all apps to be rewritten in Silverlight.

    So whatever you liked about Windows Mobile before, soon won't be there. There'll be a new and different OS that won't have all the applications of the old OS, and will be a completely different interface.

    So the question then is, will you buy into Microsoft's new mobile platform, simply because you like Microsoft. Or, if you must transition to a new platform anyway, will you consider the others? (Android? Maemo? etc)
    Market Strategist
  • My Phone: just one of the reasons I hope Microsoft saves Windows Mobile

    If WinMo 7 is incompatible, I'll consider the full range of smartphones on their merits the way I do today - I regularly use smartphones with every OS going (although Maemo is going to have to improve significantly before I think it's ready for primetime). But I'm not convinced that the Silverlight/,.NET rumour means incompatibility. The next version of Windows CE, Chelan - due in Q2 this year - adds Silverlight as well as what the Windows Embedded team calls a "very modern browser"; if WinMo 7 is based on Chelan it could run existing apps while also enabling Silverlight apps.

    Until we get the actual announcement, all we have is rumour; that's actually one of my points - the rumours are doing as much damage to WinMo as an actual announcement of incompatibility would do. This is another legacy of the long-running dispute between the Windows CE and Windows kernel teams and Microsoft is running out of time with the developers: that's another thing our industry contacts say the Windows 7 team got pretty right, which is a huge change from the reactions to Vista.

    Incidentally, I'd say I like (some) Microsoft products (Zune HD yes, Zune no, Outlook yes, SharePoint no, Windows Live Photo Gallery yes, Windows Live Messenger no, etc) rather than that I like Microsoft the company. I spend a lot of time tracking them because they have a hugely significant impact on technology and technology users.
    -M
    Simon Bisson and Mary Branscombe
  • That would be great. I loved 'My Phone' on Windows Mobile and if they bring it back with Windows Live integration that would be awesome.
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