Mobius December 2008: Windows 7, Live Mesh, and the future of Windows Mobile and services

The second Mobius event of 2008 was held this week in Seattle and I was invited to participate with some of the greatest minds in the mobile space. We saw the beta of Windows 7, future of Windows Mobile and mobile services, Live Mesh, and much more during this 2 full day event.

Mobius December 2008: Windows 7, Live Mesh, and the future of Windows Mobile and servicesThe second Mobius event of 2008 was held this week in Seattle and I was invited to participate with some of the greatest minds in the mobile space. I picked up a couple attendees at the hotel and a couple more at the airport to make a quick run over to Fry's before the evening reception. Thanks to Joel Evans' recommendation I scanned a product with my T-Mobile G1 and the ShopSavvy application and made a Christmas purchase for my wife that should have her flipping out with excitement. I think everyone who came along for the trip bought at least one thing at Fry's so it was a productive and entertaining visit.

The evening reception included a nice dinner and a fun contest for a couple of devices (impersonations of attendees).  We were all given a Mobius-branded Flip minoHD that were later used to capture some fun videos throughout the event. I'll update this post with posts from other Mobius attendees too. I hung around and chatted with some folks and then headed to bed before the first full day of activities.

Mobius December 2008 attendees: Two of the 26 attendees (Jerome and Chris) at this event were new to the Mobius group. The attendees and their sites are listed below:

Day One: Day one started off with the now traditional introduction by each of the Mobius attendees that includes demonstrations of favorite devices, apps, or services that each member finds useful and/or compelling. In a crowd like this it is very difficult to find a new device, but we did see some cool customizations and other aspects that appeal to people. I gave a live demo of ShopSavvy price checking the new Microsoft Arc mouse that we were each given.

Liska Rutherford kicked off the official conference program by talking about the Windows Mobile Brand. She mentioned the challenges and opportunities there are in today's market and how Microsoft intends to tie the Windows brand more into future smartphones since there is such a large market penetration of Windows.

Mark Croft and Brian Yee then gave a presentation on Windows 7 the included lots of slides about what Microsoft is attempting to do with Windows 7. He also gave a live demo of the beta release that you have seen covered extensively on ZDNet. Customer feedback and usability study data has shown the following top 5 customer needs:

  1. I want my PC to be fast and responsive
  2. I want all my application and devices to just work with my PC
  3. I need my PC to work all the time
  4. When I choose to do something on my PC I don't want it to constantly ask me if I'm sure (few interruptions and more control settings, changing default)
  5. I have very specific PC needs and I want a wide range in style and price. I like my PC to reflect my personality (PC customization options will improve).

Some of the ways that Microsoft has said Windows 7 will support these desires is through more intuitive navigation, simpler home networking, improved device experience (single place to access all of your connected & wireless gear), keep your life in sync with Windows Live, and faster web browsing with IE8.

As Mary Jo Foley pointed out from grabbing on of my tweets, Windows 7 beta currently does not support Windows Mobile devices with the new Device Stage feature at the moment while it does supports something like 15-20 other devices. I would have thought Windows Mobile would have been one of the first to be supported, especially since I saw a Nokia 5800 on the list and these are just now starting to sell in Europe.

By the way, if you want to ever read more of my thoughts and impressions during events like this in real-time then you can follow me on Twitter.

I was pleased to see that Windows 7 memory consumption is independent of number of open windows.

We then spent the rest of the day under NDA hearing about future Windows Mobile operating systems and services. I was pleased with the services coming out in the future since with most devices today having similar specifications and functionality it seems that the services is one aspect that can make a device stand out from the crowd. Usability is also now becoming something that is vital to a mobile device and Microsoft is taking that on in future releases as well.

There was a very enjoyable Iron Chef competition where the group was divided into 3 teams and told to cook dinner with two different special ingredients. Salmon and pears were our ingredients and thanks to the curry skills of Ryan Block our team ended up winning. Each member of the team received a Master Chef mug, HTC TV out cable, and an HTC Touch Pro device.

Day Two: We again started off with demos and introductions. Some of the cool devices I saw at Mobius were the Nokia 5800, Samsung i7710, Nokia E63, Paul's custom Blackjack II, and the HTC Touch HD. I LOVED the OLED display on the Samsung i7710 and the hardware felt fantastic. I am seriously thinking about buying the North American version of the Nokia N85 because of the OLED display it has as well. Blacks were black and the display just popped out at you when you looked at it.

Eric Lin, HTC, was the first official presenter of the day. He brought up the topic of The Difficulty of Different and asked how licensees today can compete and sell their product when there are 100 phones that look similar on the market.

This brings up a very interesting discussion for Windows Mobile because Microsoft has an excellent product in Windows Mobile, but has trouble "selling" it properly. HTC offers "choice" seemed to be the consistent thread in the Mobius group. I personally think customer service, community, and support of the product lines are also extremely valuable. It seems that every manufacturer has devices with the same OS so what is it that makes that company different? In my experiences with T-Mobile, Apple, and other companies it comes down to taking care of the customer. Apple seems to do that well with the iPhone while I don't think any other handset manufacturer performs this function well. Is this something HTC can do? Should they devote resources to customer service, community, and support?

I do think that HTC can excel in the market today by promoting their choices. With HTC you have your choice of wireless carrier, type of hardware, and price range you are willing to pay. I want to see more non-touch screen devices available for those coming from the feature phone (like we saw with the T-Mobile Shadow). The great thing about HTC devices is that you do not need to worry about switching your carrier to pick up a fantastic device.

We then moved onto another NDA session from Microsoft Labs regarding a couple of new applications being developed.

Beth Goza and Sue Schmitz from T-Mobile USA presented the T-Mobile devPartner community program. Tools like the revenue forecaster look like a very useful feature for developers. While there may be a lot of contention regarding T-Mobile firmware locking applications (right Sascha?), such as Opera Mini, you have to admit that this program is quite slick and should get more applications onto feature phones and give developers a good platform for rolling out applications.

The next presenter of the conference was Michael Gartenberg giving us an analyst presentation titled, "Major Trends in Mobility". I could listen to Michael all day because he is a very engaging speaker and is brilliant. He presented his three laws of consumer electronics and I have to admit I could adopt these as well, as my readers here can confirm:

  1. There's a worldwide market for 50,000 of any gadget.
  2. If Gartenberg sees a product at a demo and doesn't offer his credit card for purchase immediately, the product is doomed.
  3. Even if Gartenberg doesn't offer his credit card, he is still part of the 50,000 and the product may still be doomed.

David Dumler, from Microsoft, was the final presenter who talked about Live Mesh. Live Mesh is a platform for developers to build upon. Windows Azure services platform has Live Services, .NET services, SQL services, SharePoint services, and Microsoft Dynamic CRM service built on top of them.

David talked about the 5 Guiding Points for the Live Mesh team

  1. Put users at the center of their digital world
  2. Enable devices to "act as one" through feeds & syncing
  3. Ease of accessibility - any device, any location. Cloud services are a part of the solution
  4. Make it social - easy to share and stay up to date
  5. Make it an open internet standards platform

I just started using the beta Live Mesh service on my Mac, MSI Wind, and Windows Mobile devices and look forward to further improvements in the ability to access files across all of my devices.

The Mobius event ended with a trip to a local roller skating rink where we had an obstacle course competition with some extremely funny attempts to skate by the attendees. I wiped out at the end under the limbo bar and the bar landed across my neck. In the fall, I actually pulled my right hamstring and am still limping today. I am just too dang competitive, but you can't blame me when Eric Lin offered up his personal HTC Touch HD as the prize. The competition came down to Vincent and Shane and Shane blew away Vincent in a two-lap race around the course.

Mobius December 2008 was another excellent event where Microsoft was willing to show us the future and also accept a ton of feedback from some of the greatest and smartest people I have ever met. There is no other event like this and others could definitely learn from Microsoft's program and willingness to listen to those who agree and disagree with their business.

Thanks to John Starkweather and the Microsoft team for another wonderful event. Thanks to Eric Lin and HTC for the S740 device that I will be writing about soon. Thanks to all the speakers and presenters and to all the great friends at Mobius.