Microsoft CTO lauds BlackBerry, iPod

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

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.