MWg takes on HTC's Windows Mobile phones

The Singapore-based, would-be HTC rival has launched its latest smartphone and promised its devices will make Windows Mobile more usable
Written by Peter Judge, Contributor

MWg, a Singapore-based handset maker backed by online retailer eXpansys, has promised to make Windows Mobile more usable, at the European launch of its latest handset.

Launched on Thursday, MWg's latest device, the Zinc II, is a business-oriented device, with a sliding Qwerty keyboard and other features, including Wi-Fi, a camera and email. "I've used every Windows Mobile device that's ever been released, and this is the best," said Roger Butterworth, chief executive of eXpansys and chairman of MWg.

MWg, a former O2 division that made Windows Mobile handsets for the Far East, received investment from eXpansys after O2's parent company, Telefonica, pulled its support. EXpansys sells more SIM-free Windows Mobile devices in the world than any other site and plans to sell MWg's devices worldwide.

"I am the biggest enthusiast for Windows Mobile, but I can see shortcomings in the devices," added Butterworth. He said he has been unimpressed by the responsiveness of companies like HTC to comments and suggestions from users. "The designers haven't met anyone who used these devices," he added.

MWg will be different, offering a more fully realised and usable design, because the company is responsive to users, said chief executive Mark Billington. "These phones have a similar spec to HTC and Samsung devices, but they are packaged in a more engaging design," said Butterworth.

Windows Mobile has been criticised for being less usable than other mobile operating systems, such as Symbian and that of the iPhone.

MWg's future plans include a new version of its stylus-driven phone — Atom — and a Vista tablet device, according to a roadmap shown at the European launch. One item on that roadmap was immediately called into question, however: Butterworth's slides at the event mentioned a Windows Mobile 7 device appearing in the fourth quarter, which was immediately denied by Microsoft UK's head of business marketing, James McCarthy. McCarthy said that, despite rumours, no plans for the operating system's release have yet been announced.

Microsoft will be supporting MWg, said McCarthy, implicitly acknowledging the extra work required to make a good Windows Mobile handset: "The best OEMs go the extra mile to finish the product."

In the early days, Microsoft had focused on deals with operators but now the SIM-free world has opened the market up, he said. However, MWg is not  absolutely committed to SIM-free devices, admitted Billington: "If an operator asked us for a million handsets tomorrow, we'd say yes."

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