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Microsoft and the rough Diamond

Today's launch of the HTC Touch Diamond was utterly fascinating. It was also a bit of an anticlimax - some of us hacks had been tantalised by mysterious invitations to a highly exclusive event, to be held who-knows-where, but when the event finally took place at the Soho Hotel it turned out to be about as exclusive as a bendy bus.
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Written by David Meyer on

Today's launch of the HTC Touch Diamond was utterly fascinating. It was also a bit of an anticlimax - some of us hacks had been tantalised by mysterious invitations to a highly exclusive event, to be held who-knows-where, but when the event finally took place at the Soho Hotel it turned out to be about as exclusive as a bendy bus.

Of course, all that intrigue at the invite-stage led to a lot of speculation that the event was to be the launch of the HTC Dream, the first Google Android phone. That was always fairly unlikely though - a release of Android this early in the year would just be too half-baked. Still, it did lead to a palpable air of disappointment when the gadget on display turned out to be little more than the latest Touch WinMob handset.

But an interesting device it is. Not for the styling - although it does look and feel nicely "quality" - and certainly not for the battery life, but rather for the choice of browser. Out goes Internet Explorer Mobile and in comes Opera. Now, a lot of WinMob-toters I speak to are Opera users anyway - they install it as soon as they get a Windows handset - but a lot of users (such as myself) stick with IE, because that's what comes with the phone.

No longer. Because of the time gap between the release of Windows Mobile 6.1 - the OS sitting on the Touch Diamond - and the release later this year of IE Mobile 6 (which looks like it'll be a real step up from the previous version), a whole generation of Windows Mobile users will be given WinMob handsets using Microsoft's biggest mobile browser rival.

First and foremost, this is yet another classic Microsoft timing-related snafu. But it also betrays the power that HTC has over Microsoft in the Windows Mobile department. There may be around 50 manufacturers rolling out Windows Mobile handsets, but HTC is by far the most prolific, and certainly the first to spring to the European market's collective mind.

In fact, the whole affair reminds me of the mysterious goings-on between Intel and Microsoft that were revealed during the whole "Vista-capable" debacle. The bottom line is, Microsoft may be a big bad behemoth, but it is clearly and utterly at the mercy of its key partners.

And when HTC chucks up the first Android handset later this year, let's see how the Windows Mobile team react. If this is as good as their planning gets, they could be in trouble.

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