Mobius Amsterdam 2007: Windows Mobile present and future, welcome to the HTC MAGIC Labs

Today was the first full day of discussions and presentations at the Mobius 2007 event in Amsterdam following last night's evening reception. John Starkweather started off the day by laying out the ground rules for the event where most everything was completely open and we were invited to interact with each speaker/presenter as things were presented to us. Each attendee then went to the front of the room and gave their introduction as well as a demo of their favorite device and/or application. The day included presentations on current and future Windows Mobile operating systems, analyst data, chipset manufacturer information, and mobile device manufacturer discussions.

Introductions: Today was the first full day of discussions and presentations at the Mobius 2007 event in Amsterdam following last night's evening reception. John Starkweather started off the day by laying out the ground rules for the event where most everything was completely open and we were invited to interact with each speaker/presenter as things were presented to us. Each attendee then went to the front of the room and gave their introduction as well as a demo of their favorite device and/or application. Seeing as how I am known online as palmsolo (dates to my early discussion board days as a Palm user and my Star Wars history) I couldn't help but show off the Nokia N95-1 with the Lightsabre application so I wielded my N95 sabre and using the accelerometer in the device displayed my Jedi skills. It was an entertaining way to hear a bit of who everyone was and took us to the first break.

Current Windows Mobile hardware/software: Jason Langridge from the Microsoft UK office, who also writes an excellent Windows Mobile blog, gave us some demonstrations on the current Windows Mobile landscape. He showed off the T-Mobile Shadow (which I personally LOVE), the Vodafone Palm 500v, and the Samsung Sangria device. He also showed us devices from Asus, Gsmart, Pantech, LG, and BenQ.

Samsung Sangria

Photo 1: Samsung Sangria from Vodafone

HTC Touch Dual and LG-KS20

Photo 2: HTC Touch Dual and LG-KS20 Professional (touchscreen) devices

Jason also informed us that Office Mobile 6.1 is available to download and includes Office 2007 support and a ZIP utility. It is a free upgrade if your device already has it installed. You can also purchase it, but I couldn't for the life of me find how much or where to actually purchase it and you may have to download and install a trial first or something. Jason also demonstrated several Windows Mobile applications (Spb Traveler, TeamCalendar, Oops I'm late, Live Search, Yahoo! to Go, and Lawn Darts.

Next version of Windows Mobile: Derek Snyder, Microsoft employee, gave this presentation which was under NDA and can't be discussed in detail. I can tell you that I have seen the next version of Windows Mobile (not Windows Mobile 7) that is scheduled to ship to manufacturers in the 1st quarter of 2008. We saw it running on current hardware, but that does not mean that wireless carriers or manufacturers will necessarily provide the update to consumers. Personally, I think this is the OS that Windows Mobile 6 should have been and I think that consumers will be quite pleased with the functionality and features of this next update.

Mobile Trends - Analyst perspective: Paul Jackson, from Forrester, presented a ton of thoughts and data on the mobile landscape with progress and trends that they have measured or are forecasting. Before the iPhone the data he presented showed that only 11% of the people in the US used the mobile internet, but I imagine that number has increased with the iPhone adoption and education of the consumer. In Japan, the number was something like 52%.

Paul presented the progress of mobile technology with the following slides:

  • Remote access to comms and apps is getting there
  • Handsets are powerful enough to handle most applications
  • Storage costs tending toward zero
  • We're over most of the network/bandwidth humps
  • User interfaces catch up with demands
  • Web access - good enough yet? Still limited by screen size, text entry, and lack of really compelling applications
  • What new "killer" apps are exciting the industry?

He then went on to discuss trends and had the following five cool emerging technology categories covered:

  1. Display innovation
  2. Augmented reality (VR)
  3. Touch and motion control
  4. Next generation communication & commerce (payment, prescence (video conferencing type), virtual worlds)
  5. Technology life integration (people wear their technology)

Paul closed out his informative session by talking about seven business and consumer trends

  1. Hyper-connectivity (Short to long range connectivity types) Intelligent infrastructure switching is still missing (UMA). Auto configuration and security.
  2. Mass mobility. People will be syncing to the cloud with single PCs rather than multiple PCs. Key advantage in PC-shy or developing markets like Southern Europe, South Africa, and India. PC will no longer be the "master" of the content.
  3. True web ubiquity (web everywhere). Moving from "twice daily" syncing to "100 times a day"
  4. Mobile in the digital "home". Having a single network that allows a household to share data, content, etc. VoIP, remote media access is the future.
  5. Social computing is composed of creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, inactives.
  6. Millenials are entering and coming!
  7. Convergence vs. divergence

Chipset perspective - Qualcomm: Steve Horton made a topic that I thought would be technical and dry very interesting and engaging. We learned about Qualcomm's focus on chipsets rather than making handsets and how they are also in the mobile media industry with their MediaFLO product.

Qualcomm see the decreasing cost of the smartphone spurring growth in adoption of these devices. Steve talked about the Qualcomm/Microsoft collaboration effort and the MSM 7xxx series of chipsets we see in today's latest and greatest devices. These chipsets include GPS, media, applications processors and more in a single, low battery consumption configuration. There are several variants of their chips in mobile devices today with some having everything inside and some having limitations desired by the manufacturer or carrier for various reasons (cost, size of the device, targeted market, etc).

Qualcomm MSM chipsets

Photo 3: Qualcomm MSM chipset evolution

Steve also talked about their next generation chipsets, the QSD that will be targeted to devices outside of handsets, such as UMPC devices. Their "Snapdragon" chipset has low power consumption with 3G support and GHz performance. I developed a much better understanding of what is inside these devices.

Manufacturer perspective - HTC: John Wang then stood up to talk with us candidly about HTC. He did not use any slides and just had an open dialog with us and his partner Jason Gordon. John is the Chief Innovation Wizard (unofficial title) of the HTC MAGIC Labs in Taiwan and he has the job that a lot of us would love to have, at least the fun part of it. His MAGIC Labs get to try out ideas and try to make the impossible a possibility. Most of his engaging talk was confidential, but he showed us some different prototypes, talked about some trials and errors, and then went on to explain the success of how the HTC Touch and TouchFLO made it out of the Labs and into production. The MAGIC Labs is a special division of the R&D center and John talked about how dedicated HTC is to R&D and strongly desires to be the leader in innovation in the mobile handset market.

Mr. John Wang from HTC

Photo 4: HTC Chief Innovation Wizard

I found it interesting to hear about how hard HTC works to address the issues we never really think much about. Such as having to cram in Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and RF antennas into extremely small devices, while maximizing signal strength and reducing interference. To HTC each 1/10th of a millimeter is huge and I definitely have a lot more respect for the amount of work that goes into making these amazing devices.

While I appreciated the effort HTC made on the first generation HTC Touch, as I stated in my earlier thoughts I wasn't that impressed with the usage of a 200 MHz processor and 64 MB RAM. I won an HTC Touch Dual in a contest the night before and then John showed off the new photo application on the Touch Dual (now running a 400 MHz Qualcomm chip with 128 MB RAM and 256 MB ROM). All I have to say is that the new photo application on the Touch Dual is truly AMAZING. There is no 2x zoom, etc., but rather you decide on where you want to zoom in and gesture a simply circle around it and the software zooms into the primary object you circled. For example, if you want to zoom in on a single eye in a photo of people you circle the eye and that is zoomed into full screen. I will soon be posting a YouTube video where I show this functionality in action on the Touch Dual. You can also gesture scroll through photos, gesture rotate them and gesture pan them.

HTC branding: HTC wants to establish respect in the market rather than paying millions for advertising (TV ads, billboards, etc.) to get the HTC brand name out there. By designing and releasing innovative, high quality products they should build up this respect and brand recognition and then can build on that with advertising.

Sponsored giveaways: It turns out that everyone was then given an HTC Touch Dual (I already one a device the night before in a contest so I did not get one) and a SanDisk 8GB microSD card after the days lectures.

Evening social event: The evening festivities then began with an enjoyable glass top boat ride through the canals of Amsterdam to a wonderful Dutch restaurant that was actually built in 1614. The restaurant had sagged a bit and was also leaning towards the street. The doors were quite low and I actually had to duck at the front entrance and through each door to avoid hitting my head (FYI, I am 6 feet, 1 inch tall). The food was very good and the conversation with fellow Mobius attendees and a Qualcomm representative was enjoyable.

Mobius 2007 day 1 photo 3

Photo 5: Sony Reader vs. Amazon Kindle (I bought the Reader, but may go for the Kindle)

There were lots of cool devices, including a couple of Amazon Kindles. I was going to buy one before this trip, but they were sold out so I picked up a Sony Reader. The Sony Reader has nicer hardware, but the Kindle looks compelling with its functionality and I may have to return my Sony Reader for the Kindle soon.