Windows Mobile Is Broken. We Offer Nine Features Which Could Revitalize The Platform.


image

When Windows Mobile first hit the scene almost a full decade ago (in the year 2000), it was revolutionary. No one had seen anything like it before. Sure, there had been the Palm OS, and maybe the hint of what is now Symbian, but the idea of having a full fledged computer (not just a PIM) in the palm of your hand was pretty much the stuff of science fiction. Well, here it is, a decade later, Windows Mobile is now in its sixth generation (the aptly named Windows Mobile 6) and while it is still the most powerful mobile operating system, it is hardly alone. Today, it shares the playing field with Blackberry, the remnants of the Palm OS, Symbian, the iPhone, and soon phones running Google’s new mobile platform, otherwise known as Android. What does this all mean for Windows Mobile? Well, the first thing it means is that other operating systems will be breathing down Microsoft’s neck pushing it to move faster and smarter…or just pushing it out of the way. We have already seen this with the iPhone and its far superior web browser and user interface. Windows Mobile is starting to show its age. It is like an athlete who needs to spend more time in the gym than ever just to keep up with the younger, faster, smarter players. But all is not lost. This article will look at nine things Windows Mobile can do to regain its top spot in the mobile operating system arena…all of which can (and should) be done before the next implementation of Windows Mobile is even released, and certainly before a new iPhone, Nokia-Symbian phone, or Android pushes it further down the pecking order..

A Better Internet Experience. When Windows Mobile first hit the scene in 2000, we were all shocked and amazed by Pocket Internet Explorer. This was the Internet in the Palm of your hand. Unfortunately, once the initial amazement and euphoria wore off, we were left with an underpowered web browser. For many of us, it did not matter a lot at the time because the Pocket PC was not designed to connect to the Internet back then.

As time moved on, however, and Pocket PC’s began incorporating Wi-fi and ultimately became converged with phones bearing broadband-like connection speeds, the Internet began to take on a much more central role in how we used our mobile devices. And, of course, one would assume, that Pocket Internet Explorer evolved to meet this need. One would be wrong. In fact, this is among the biggest failings of Windows Mobile today. It still relies on virtually the exact same underpowered web browser that was found in the original, unconnected Pocket PC’s nearly a decade ago.

While this has been a source of growing consternation among Windows Mobile users, it was mostly just assumed that mobile devices were simply too limited for the Internet. That all changed this past summer, however, when the iPhone was unveiled with its full Safari browser. If the iPhone did anything, it showed Windows Mobile users what had been missing all along from their mobile Internet experience. As an example, take a look at this screenshot of the iPhone’s safari browser:

image

This first shot is simply the Yahoo homepage as it is seen on an iPhone…

pc_capture1

…and here it is as it is seen on Windows Mobile Pocket Internet Explorer. It is just a cluttered mess, which can barely be seen.

pc_capture2

Even if we scroll down a little bit, it is just impossible to read the page.

Microsoft has always been known for their innovation, and it is just shocking to me that in nearly 10 years, they have not come up with a better web browsing solution than Pocket Internet Explorer, especially in light of Apple’s first crack at the iPhone, which plainly revealed Pocket Internet Explorer as the aging relic which it has become. If Microsoft truly expects Windows Mobile to remain at the top of the market, it MUST offer a full web browser, or full version of Internet Explorer 7 with the Windows Mobile operating system.

More Usable Today Screen/Desktop: For as long as the desktop version of Windows has served as our primary operating system (particularly since Windows 95), the desktop has been the place where we display shortcuts to our important applications, folders, and documents. This is how the Today Screen on a Windows Mobile device should operate. Instead, however, in almost direct contradiction to its desktop counterparts, the Today Screen has been largely ignored by Microsoft as a valuable resource for interacting with your device. Here is a shot of the Sprint Mogul today screen as it appeared when I initially activated my phone.

image

As you can see, far from serving as a useful means of navigating the applications on my device, the Today Screen appears cluttered and provides access to little useful information. In fact, much of the information on the Today Screen is little more than an ad for Microsoft and Sprint, even adopting Sprint’s glaring yellow color scheme.

image

Not to keep harping on this point, but now look at the iPhone today screen. It is neatly organized, and allows you to access every critical function of the device with a single fingertap.

image

More recently, some device manufacturers have clued in to the power the today screen really offers. HTC, for example, now offers its own Today Screen with the HTC Touch and TyTN II devices, which allows some access to various applications and utilities.

image

There are also many third party applications which will take over your today screen and turn it into the powerful tool it was intended to be. Among these are SBSH iLauncher, Spb Mobile Shell, Spb Pocket Plus, and LakeRidge Software Wisbar Desktop and Wisbar Advanced (to name only a few). As I am about to discuss, however, it should not take third party applications to make Windows Mobile perform as it was intended to perform.

image Better built in applications – Since I have already touched briefly upon this subject, let’s discuss the built in applications and third party software in more detail. As I see it, third party software can be divided into two general categories: those which improve upon existing applications, and those which add new features or applications. If Windows Mobile is to remain successful, the first category should be completely eliminated. This means (and I apologize to the developers) no more need for programs like Pocket Informant, Agenda Fusion/Agenda One, SoftMaker Office, Resco File Explorer (shown at left), CorePlayer, or Pocket Player (to name a few). Presumably, Windows Mobile should be able to handle all of these functions for you.

Of course, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with these programs. Many of them are superb. Windows Mobile, however, claims to include Pocket Outlook with access to your calendar, tasks, contacts, and more. It claims to include a file explorer, and a media player. Heck, it even includes a scaled down version of Microsoft Office. All of these applications, however, range from barely functional to just plain junk (and this does not even mention the useless third party "bloatware" which festers on many devices). Heck, many developers use the tag line, "Make your Windows Mobile device operate the way it was intended," or something similar.

It should never take a third party application to make your device operate the way it was intended. Most users are not aware that many of these applications are even available. They purchase a Windows Mobile device to perform particular functions: check email, sync their calendar, organize their contacts, listen to music. If the device cannot adequately perform these functions out of the box, then it is likely going to end up in a dusty bin of useless gadgets that many of us keep in the basement, no matter how many third party applications are available to fix it.

If Microsoft is unable or unwilling to develop functional versions of these applications, then they should contract with third party developers to include them as part of the operating system. I would be thrilled if I bought a device and found Resco File Explorer preloaded instead of the bare bones Microsoft File Explorer. Or how about finding Pocket Informant or Agenda Fusion in place of Pocket Outlook.

sshot-7

FINGERS! FINGERS! FINGERS! When I was discussing this article with the team here at JAMM, it was inevitable that the included stylus would come up. Since the early days of Palm devices, the stylus has been a thin, small piece of metal or plastic used to interact with the touch screen on your device. These are typically so skinny they cause hand cramps, and so small they are easily lost. In fact, the only advantage they serve is that they can usually be easily tucked into a slot on the side or back of the device. As Lauren stated during one of our team meetings, "styli are a necessary evil, but why do they need to be?"

I started thinking about this comment, and Lauren is absolutely correct. For years, the stylus has been viewed as a necessary evil. Nobody really likes to use one, but it is the price you have to pay for using the technology. What Microsoft still does not seem to have figured out, however, is that pretty much every user has ten styli built right into their hands. Yup, I am talking about fingers.

Developers are now starting to get around to making software which is designed to be used without a stylus, or finger friendly software. The best example of this is the fantastic iwindowsmobile line of programs released by Vito Technology. For the most part, however, both the operating system, and most of the programs designed for it still require a stylus. This was understandable in the early days when the touch screen was still new and not well developed. This is no longer the case. The touch screen has evolved to a point where the stylus is no longer necessary, which makes it simply evil. Both Microsoft and third party developers should make the elimination of the stylus Windows Mobile a significant priority in 2008.

image Bluetooth — This section was almost titled, "Dude, Who Stole My Bluetooth?" Time was that Windows Mobile devices utilized the excellent WidComm stack of Bluetooth drivers. My Dell Axim with Windows Mobile 2003SE never had any Bluetooth problems. Then, along came Windows Mobile 5, and Microsoft’s decision to do it themselves. For the first time we saw the underwhelming Microsoft Bluetooth stack, and boy what a difference. Dropped connections, poor Bluetooth radio reception, and more marred the new stack of drivers. In fact, one team of developers even attempted to replace the Windows Mobile 5 Microsoft Bluetooth stack with the WidComm stack from Windows Mobile 2003SE.

Ever since Microsoft replaced the Widcomm Bluetooth stack with their own, the Bluetooth capabilities of Windows Mobile have continued to underwhelm most users. Many devices lack A2DP (stereo music) and AVRCP (audio remote control) support, and limit Bluetooth functionality to a small circle of accessories, most of which are Bluetooth headsets and keyboards. And don’t even get me started on the difficulties connecting a Bluetooth GPS. There is simply no excuse for a Bluetooth stack which cannot make a connection and keep it without interference. Likewise, now that stereo audio has become so integral to many users, A2DP and AVRCP simply must be included natively. Again, if Microsoft cannot (or will not) develop a Bluetooth stack that can function adequately, then it should return to the WidComm Bluetooth stack.

image

Making A Phone Call Should Not Be This Hard: There is an old joke about a man who gets a new watch. He goes on and on bragging about all of the things it can do until someone finally asks what time it is. "I don’t know. This thing doesn’t tell time," is the famous reply. That is how I feel about the phones on Windows Mobile devices.

As the Pocket PC and phones have become more and more inseparable (the actual term is converged), the dialer on these devices has gone from a sideshow to the main event. It is imperative that you can quickly and easily dial, reach someone from your contacts, and answer the phone. None of these are particularly easy with a lot of Windows Mobile devices (it is hard to make generalizations here since they are all different). Of course, many people rely on voice commands which seems like a cop-out for Windows Mobile, and can be a bit (to say the least) inconsistant. This does not change the fact that the dialer screen on many devices, such as the Sprint Mogul are simply unusable.  Go ahead, try to dial on the dialpad above without using a stylus.  It simply cannot be done.

Let’s be honest, when you need to make a call, you do not want to whip out your stylus and scroll through the tiny text in your contacts or tap out the numbers on a too small dialer pad. You want to reach the contact and you want to reach them now.

image

In fairness, this is an area which has seen vast improvement in some of the newer devices. The HTC Touch (shown above), for example, offer a fantastic dialer pad, which is a vast improvement from the Sprint Mogul (shown at the top of this section).

The other problem with dialing by contact is the complete lack of intuitive controls. Ideally, you should be able to tap a contact and automatically dial them. Quick and easy. Too often, however, tapping the contact opens the information screen or, worse, an editing page. For me, the best option is photo contacts. Regardless of how you accomplish this, however, there absolutely cannot be more than two taps between your Today Screen and a phone call; and you should not need a third party application to get there.

sshot-7 Close Button: Second only to Pocket Internet Explorer, the lack of a true close button is probably the largest source of consternation among Windows Mobile users. It is one of the most counter-intuitive features of the operating system.

Let’s face it. Most Windows Mobile users are also Windows users. In Windows, the "X" in the corner has meant close the application for over twenty years, ever since Windows 3.0 was introduced (and maybe longer). This is among the most ingrained controls on my desktop. So, of course, when we see an "X" in the upper right corner of the screen in Windows Mobile, we expect it to behave the same way. Close the application. Right? Wrong.

I must have heard this story a million times, and I still do not understand it. It all relates to memory management, and here is the "official explanation from the Windows Mobile Team Blog:

One thing we did has been pretty contentious. Along the way, we got feedback that users didn’t mind letting us manage the memory for them, but they really wanted a way to say, “I’m done with this. Make it go away.” So we put a “go away” button in the upper right corner of PocketPCs. This button just sends the application to the background. It doesn’t close it. If the system needs more memory while the app is in the background, it’ll close the app. But, if the system doesn’t need more memory, the app will stay in RAM and be ready to come back quickly the next time the user needs it.

Now, in a move that some people consider brilliant and others consider unforgivably stupid, we made the “go away” look like an “X”. Brilliant because anyone who has ever used Desktop Windows will know that an “X” button in the upper right corner of the window will make the window go away. Unforgivably stupid because every one of those same people will assume an “X” button in the upper right corner of the window will make the app close. Whether you think the move is brilliant or stupid is pretty heavily tied to how much you believe that users shouldn’t have to manage their own memory.

I have to admit that I fall into the camp which considers this to be an unforgivably stupid move. This has never made an iota of sense to me or anyone else who uses Windows Mobile. So, "X" means close, but only partly, just in case I need you again later.

I have written about the fantastic InClose Mobile program, which brings a whole new level of functionality to the "X" button. Pocket Plus also features a true close button feature, and there are dozens of other programs and freeware that offer this feature. The abundance of programs addressing this seemingly small point should send a clear signal to Microsoft that, regardless of the logic behind the decision, the "X" Button does not do the job we asked it to do, and there is no good reason for this failure.

sshot-8

ActiveSync: Have you ever wondered why most users refer to ActiveSync and Active Stink? Anyone who has tried to really sync their device with a Windows computer knows that this feature simply does not work well. Often, it takes numerous attempts to get Activesync (or Windows Mobile Device Center) to recognize an initial pairing with your device. Even once it has been paired, it may sporadically not connect, drop the connection, or just lose the connection for no apparent reason. And this does not even address the fact that it is slow and unreliable.

Windows Mobile Device Center (shown above), which is the Vista version of ActiveSync was supposed to fix all of this. It did not. Unless you are a Windows Mobile 6 user, it is worse than ever at recognizing your device. And I cannot tell you how many people have had problems keeping their calendars and tasks connected to Outlook 2007.

The simple fact is that, regardless of whether you call it Windows Mobile Device Center, ActiveSync, or ActiveStink, the connection between your Windows Mobile device and desktop computer has been broken for years.

This is one area in which Microsoft needs to scrap everything and start over from scratch with a new program. The integration between your Windows Mobile device and desktop computer must be fast and seamless, and 100 percent reliable. Otherwise, you might as well go back to Post-It Notes and index cards in your wallet.

image

Editing The Registry, There Must Be A Better Way: For years, editing the registry has been something left only to the professionals. It has been shrouded in the mystery of phrases like, "Abandon all hope, ye who dare enter this forbidden realm!"

The truth is, however, that there is a lot of fantastic information and customization in the registry. Things as simple as changing a color, or turning off that annoying flashing light can only be controlled from the registry.

There are two problems here. First, Windows Mobile does not include the tools to edit the registry. In order to obtain a registry editor, you must purchase a third party application, such as the one which comes with SK Tools, or Resco File Explorer.

Even if you obtain a registry editor, take a look at the registry. Really, unless you are a professional, and I am not, this is completely meaningless gibberish. I mean, what is an Hkey anyway (don’t answer that)? But why does this have to be the case? Many programs make it easy to change certain components of the registry. SKTools, MemMaid, Tweaks2k2, all of these programs (and others) offer utilities and an easy to use, graphical interface which allows you (without even knowing it) to change the registry.

So, why can’t Windows Mobile give you this kind of control natively? Sure, there are some registry entries which are so volatile that the novice could destroy a device by changing them incorrectly. But for the most part, a lot of the registry can be used to create a vast level of customization and functionality in a Windows Mobile device. Why hide these controls? Most users crave more customization. Why not make the registry accessible to all users in an easy to use, intuitive environment.

image

[Image courtesy of Gizmodo]

Most of the things I have mentioned here are already possible with technology which exists and is in use today. Heck, eight of them are already available for Windows Mobile via third party applications, or are available on alternative platforms (such as the iPhone), so there is really no excuse for Microsoft not to incorporate these suggestions. In fact, the rumors we are hearing would indicate that at least some of them could be incorporated as early as Windows Mobile 7 or Windows Mobile 8, so help could be coming soon. The question is, will soon enough end up as too late as he iPhone, Android, and Symbian sun roughshod over the new and improved Windows Mobile before it ever gets released?

The most important thing, in my mind, for Microsoft to take away from this article is that the operating system and attendant software should be designed with the user in mind. In a lot of ways this never happened with Windows Mobile. Instead, it has the feel of an operating system in which the developers and designers decided which activities would be important for the user, rather than the user telling them which activities should be included. The result is an operating system which tends to fall well short of most users expectations. The good news, however, is that Windows Mobile has not strayed so far as to be completely unfixable. A few tweaks here and there, and a good shine should could have it ready to in no time. Until then, does anyone know how I can load Safari on my Sprint Mogul?

Be Sociable, Share!
  1. #1 by spmwinkel on December 29, 2007 - 5:07 am

    1 – Defenitely. I know that tabbed browsing was only introduced with FireFox and IE7, but I think that IEM should follow ASAP. Browsing the internet on a PPC as daily business, and a couple days ago I experienced again how hard it was to do serious browsing. Menneisyys posted about getting BoneyBoy for free untill the end of the year (here: http://www.pocketpcmag.com/blogs/index.php?blog=3&title=get_best_jumpaamp_run_game_mobisation_s_31&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1 ) and I had to copy his blogpost into Pocket Word, because it was nearly impossible to go back and forth between his post and the Mobile2Day website. (As it turns out, downloading the installer over internet doesn’t result in having a PPC key which is required for the registration process, so it’s recommended to order Boneyboy on the PC anyway)

    2 – While the title is a bit misleading (the Today screen is VERY usable when using third party plugins), I do agree that there’s not a lot that can be done with the default plugins that only show you the AMOUNT of tasks, the first two appointments, etc. The new HTC home plugin is very stylish and useful, but doesn’t improve on the appointment/task section. (and it’s quite big of course, so running a third party plugin like PocketBreeze or SPB Diary is less attractive because only half of the screen is still available).

    3 – I certainly agree, but luckily the fact that WM is open to third party applications allows the user to fix a lot. However, having two file explorers, simply because the first one doesn’t do the job frequent users, shouldn’t be necessary. It’s quite shocking to count all the popular apps that simply “cover” WM apps. Just to name a some on my device: TCPMP, Resco Explorer, Resco Photo Viewer, Resco Keyboard, SK Tools, Device Lock, iLauncher, PocketBreeze, and Sprite Backup. It would save the user quite some money if he/she didn’t have to purchase these third party apps.

    4 – I wonder if we would have the same finger-mania if the iPhone would have never existed. Anyway, it does exist, so now Microsoft simply has to respond to the demand that is created. HTC did a great job with the HTC Home plugin, but I think that it will be a lot harder for Microsoft if they want to stick to the top bar and bottom bar idea. Doubling the size of the start and top bar in order to facilitate finger friendliness is not really an option because it reduces the space that’s left available for other things, so it will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to this.

    (I’m skipping 5 since I hardly ever use bluetooth)

    6 – Nothing to add, placing a phonecall has never been so hard on any of my Phones as it is on my WM devices. I know WM devices weren’t originally created to use for dialing, but if coverged “PPC Phone Edition” devices are brought to the market, there should not be a difficult learning curve in order to understand the Dialer.

    7 – You know, I actually sometimes forget that the X button doesn’t close. By now I’ve grown used to iLaunchers close functionality, and the popularity of programs like iLauncher, SPB Pocket Plus and Wisbar Advance show that people ARE interested in task management. I did see a task manager included in my HTC TyTn II but it didn’t take long before I switched to the iLauncher task manager. It’s good to see that this ‘issue’ is also under the attention of Microsoft and HTC, though.

    8 – I haven’t been having much problems with ActiveSync, except for the fact that I can’t sync the My Documents folder back to my device after restoring an SK Tools backup, but I’ve switched to Sprite Backup to see if that makes a difference. Let’s see how things work out on my next hard reset.
    But when it comes to syncing appointments, tasks, contacts etc. I’ve been quite satisfied with ActiveSync. Of course I do know about the WiFi syncing which was removed. I haven’t been lucky enough to ever do that, it would be great to quickly sync my device without using my USB cable.

    9 – The registry is a tough one. I’ve only been in the registry of my Windows XP laptop once, and luckily I don’t have the need to be in there more often. On the PPC, I do think that the registry is more accessible (after taking the step to install a registry editor). Quite some registry tweaks are available and listed on various websites, so if users take the time to get familiar with registry tweaking, they can change quite some things that are not really meant to be manually changed by the user. So on one hand, it’s good that the registry is still not immediately available and editable because it contains things that shouldn’t be changed, but on the other hand, it would be nice if the things that CAN be tweaked nicely by users, would be grouped in a nice interface so that users can change them easily.

    All things combined – Doug, do you still like your WM device? ;)

  2. #2 by pedah on December 29, 2007 - 5:45 am

    Wow what a great and informative post, I hope you’ve got Bill’s ear n this one! =)

  3. #3 by dgoldring on December 29, 2007 - 11:39 am

    Thanks, Pedah.

    SPM, all good points. One thing you will notices, however, is how often you noted that you can do things with third party apps. You can make the today screen useful. There are third party apps that fix things. Others have made the registry accessible. The main point I was trying to make was that we should not need these third party apps for things Microsoft says Windows Mobile can do. Many users do not want to pay for these apps or do not even know they exist.

    On your last question. The Sprint Mogul is still the best device I have ever used. I really enjoy many aspects of Windows Mobile 6. My point,however, was that the competition is approaching and passing, so Microsoft needs to step up its game if it wants to stay in the race. But yeah, I do still love my Windows Mobile device.

    Doug

  4. #4 by dgduris on December 29, 2007 - 8:00 pm

    Doug,
    Great article.

    SPM,
    Excellent response.

    I have been home over the Christmas Holiday, playing with my Mom and Dad’s iPhones so I though I might chime in.

    You know, the iPhone is really about delivering a consistent user experience. In the last week I have come to appreciate that it does that and does it in a simple-to-figure-out fashion. My 80-year-old mom is sending text messages and entering calendar items into her JesusPhone and that is all the proof I need to know that Mr. Jobs has hit the nail on the head.

    And the iPhone sure is beautiful. That hundreds-of-thousands of colors screen puts my Tilt’s to shame and almost makes an N95 blush. And that flush glass face is a perfect window into the candy store of deliciously colored launch icons.

    But, you know what, my Dad keeps picking up my Tilt and asking if I can give his iPhone a screen with the voicemail count, email count, sms count, this week’s schedule and weather overview and scrolling news and markets headlines. You know what? I can’t. Rather, his iPhone can’t. It’s purdy to look at but it’s kinda dumb. He wants me to take him out to trade in Jesus for a Tilt tomorrow. That’s great! But it means the return of the “How do I…” calls that the iPhone had ended. Oh! Well.

    Now, re. PIE. I had to use PIE for a couple of days because of a little issue with the Opera 8.65 Cache. PIE is the Ox-drawn cart of mobile browsers and IE is that of PC browsers. I mean, it’s 2007 and folks are actually typing in: “www.google.com” instead of just “google.” The solution to PIE is to simply forget about it and use a real mobile browser…Perhaps WinMob manufacturers will begin to add Opera to their phones as Sony Ericsson has done with their Symbian phones.

    Perhaps, since the “user experience” is such a powerful driver of sales – as the iPhone has demonstrated – WinMob hardware manufacturers will move towards the Symbian model and begin writing their own user interface (such as UIQ or Series 60) over the core OS (Symbian). The TouchFlo interface is a step in that direction. Not that Redmond would ever allow it to happen, but it would be great – I think – for WinMob, M$ and the aligned manufacturers. The core Windows Mobile OS is now pretty robust and stable providing all the right tools for pushing, pulling and multi-tasking stuff. The user interface sucks and as long as M$ tries to shoehorn a desktop experience into something with the ergonomics of a deck of cards, the Windows Mobile UI will continue to suck. Better, me thinks, to let the manufacturers worry about the foreground of the “experience” – that part becomes their “user experience branding” whilst WinMob 6+ keep things moving backstage. I hope it happens!

    Cheers!

    Richard

  5. #5 by dgoldring on December 29, 2007 - 10:12 pm

    Richard, I think you made a number of great points there.

    I had a chance to play with the iPhone over Thanksgiving and, as you probably have noticed, a number of JAMM writers have converted to the Jobsian way of life.

    When I played with it, I had the same feeling that I got with the iPod and Macs I have used. It is very pretty and feels great. I love the interface. but is only allows you to do the things that the folks in Cupertino want you to do. WinMo is the opposite extreme.

    I am very curious to see what we will find from an open source phone when the Google Androids start hitting the shelves. I suspect that will either be a phenomenon like the iPhone or a complete flop. I am not predicting a middle ground for it. Of course, the big difference is that the Android, like WinMo, will be a number of different phones, potentially on various carriers. We’ll have to wait and see.

    Doug

  6. #6 by GreatDay on December 30, 2007 - 2:29 am

    Doug, as usual, knows of what he speaks and i couldn’t add anything more. I just wish i had some of the money back for all the programs i’ve tried in an attempt at addressing what he mentioned. Some were worth it, and how, but they also gobbled up all the useable memory, so how was i ahead when I couldn’t actually run the most useful/ well liked programs? I guess what I want to know is: What does Bill use; does the MS Team use PIE everyday; what’s in the Koolaide that has made such a braintrust of creativity so patient??? I work with cars and I have the same recurring question about them as I do the makers of tech—-these engineers are SO creative, but do they ever take their stuff out in the real world and try to USE it? With cars, some of the materials used will just not hold up to everyday use. Yes they were pretty (when they were new), but they just are not meant to stand up to human interaction. What were they thinking!?! So to a giant like MS, i ask the same question: Am I to be grateful and loyal to you for making me an e-Reader i am only allowed to install in Main Memory and is then content restricted; are you proud that you can take me to the Internet on my phone, but i can’t actually use it? I’m NOT an MS basher. I want them to succeed and be number One. I’m just curious why all the things we all just mentioned CONTINUES to fall on deaf ears….?….hello?…….hello?

  7. #7 by Pony99CA on December 30, 2007 - 10:50 am

    First, let me say that I agree with overall idea of improving Windows Mobile, and even many of the nine points, which is why I linked to it over at pocketnow . However, I think you’re missing several important things, and I don’t think some of your suggestions are the right way to fix things.

    Second, sorry for the length of this, but it was a lengthy article….

    Before I cover the list in depth, let me make some general points.

    1. Windows Mobile is *not* broken. It could obviously use some updates and improvements, but it works reasonably well for most uses as it is today. A broken product does not work well (or at all).

    2. Windows Mobile is, in general, a PIM-oriented system, not an entertainment platform (although it certainly has features that aid that). That’s what I think most articles comparing the iPhone to Windows Mobile forget. What kind of PIM functions does the iPhone offer?

    3. You’re forgetting the history of Windows CE/Windows Mobile, which is probably why I have issues with some of the things you said. I’ll cover those areas in each point.

    4. You keep saying “how Windows Mobile was intended to be used”. Unless you were on the development team, or have direct knowledge of what the development team was thinking, you don’t really know how it was intended to be used. Knowing the history better might give you some ideas, though.

    5. Microsoft may want to change things in some areas, but won’t because of legal worries. If Microsoft puts third-party software devleopers out of business, they could get hit with another antitrust lawsuit. That’s what happened with Windows when they bundled Internet Explorer and Media Player.

    Here’s a real-life example. When I worked at IBM, I’d made some minor improvements to the mainframe Pascal debugger. A lawyer looked at them and said that they were OK to release because they didn’t make the debugger *too good*! Apparently that would have been a bad thing because it might impact third-party developers. (I don’t know if there even *were* any third-party debuggers.) IBM was gunshy after their antitrust lawsuit and maybe Microsoft is, too.

    Anyway, now to the specific points.

    1. Better Internet experience

    I certainly agree that the browser should be better. In particular, the Zoom function in WM 5 stinks. I’m very nearsighted, and even with the Largest setting chosen, I often can’t read pages without magnification. Allow me to override the font size and to zoom in on a particular part of the page (a la the iPhone).

    Also, besides tabbed browsing, there should also be more access to plug-ins, although that’s not completely Microsoft’s fault. There should be Java, Flash, Real and QuickTime support at the least.

    However, I believe that your claim that it “still relies on virtually the exact same underpowered web browser that was found in the original, unconnected Pocket PCs” is wrong. Microsoft significantly improved the browser in Windows Mobile 2003 (source: ). I don’t have the numbers handy, but I think they moved from an IE 4-based engine to an IE 5 one. Of course, that’s still outdated.

    Let me ask one question, though — other than the iPhone, what devices have a better native browser?

    Finally, I have to laugh when you said, “Microsoft has always been known for their innovation.” What innovation would that be? Here’s my list of Microsoft’s hits:

    * BASIC wasn’t original.

    * DOS was bought from another company.

    * Windows was a rip-off of the Apple Lisa (which in turn was a rip-off of the Xerox PARC Alto).

    * Internet Explorer wasn’t the first browser, and even that was actually bought from Spyglass.

    * Office was just a packaging of components that had existed long before, none of which were invented by Microsoft.

    * Windows CE (which became Windows Mobile) was a response to Palm’s success.

    * The Xbox is basically a game-optimized PC meant to compete with long-time players Sony and Nintendo.

    * The Zune is a response to the iPod.

    What Microsoft does very well is take ideas pioneered by others and, usually after a couple of mediocre versions, turn them into good products.

    2. More usable Today screen/desktop

    Here’s where your lack of history really shows up. The original Windows CE *had* a real desktop (with icons and a Start menu and task bar at the bottom of the screen), just like desktop Windows. It worked well on Handheld PCs with 480×240 (and later 640×240) screens, but didn’t work so well on Palm-Size PCs (the predecessor to the Pocket PC) with their 240×320 screens. I believe that Microsoft shifted things around so much in the original Pocket PC OS because people found the desktop so unwieldy in that form factor.

    Also, the Today screen is meant to do exactly what its name implies — give you an overview of what you have to do *today*. That’s part of its PIM heritage showing through. However, Microsoft was forward-thinking enough to make it modular, so that additional functions could be added easily.

    Personally, I don’t have any problem with the Today screen (or the Smartphone’s equivalent, the Home screen). If somebody finds it cluttered, it hasn’t been customized well enough.

    However, let’s look at your example, the iPhone. Their main screen seems to be nothing more than a pretty launcher (with status icons on top of the program icons in some cases). Also, can the user customize it (without hacking)?

    As anybody who has used a Web browser knows, your Home page is meant to be changed. One size does not fit all, so don’t expect Microsoft to do it for you.

    What Microsoft would be better off doing would be creating (or buying) a better plug-in that gave people a better experience. However, I’m not convinced that they need to rearchitect anything — with the possible exception of allowing multiple items per row (at least on the Smartphone, which currently requires a third-party plug-in).

    3. Better built-in applications

    First, I disagree where you say the base Windows Mobile applications are “barely functional” (with two exceptions — File Explorer and the Smartphone version of Tasks) or “just plain junk” (which I don’t think applies to *any* applicatons in WM).

    Second, besides my point about lawyers above, your comment that “Windows Mobile should be able to handle all of these functions for you” is misguided. Windows Mobile is an operating system (or platform), and making the platform great should be where they focus their resources.

    Look at Windows, for example. Do you really think Microsoft should spend time on Movie Maker or bundle more applications into the system? Operating systems are meant to do two basic things:

    * Manage the resources of the computer (processor, memory, processes, files, connectivity, etc.)
    * Provide a platform for applications to run on

    Windows CE is a bit of exception because it’s always included PIM and Office functionality, and I think that it still does that adequately (although not spectacularly). However, improving other features would probably take resources away from the core of the system.

    You also complain about bloatware crammed into devices by the OEMs and cellular carriers, but imagine how bloated the OS would become with all the third-party software you mentioned essentially moved into it.

    Finally, you made the comment “I would be thrilled if I bought a device and found Resco File Explorer preloaded instead of the bare bones Microsoft File Explorer. Or how about finding Pocket Informant or Agenda Fusion in place of Pocket Outlook.”

    Well, that’s been done. HP has shipped Resco Explorer on the iPAQ 5555, and Pocket Informant on the iPAQ 4700. Motorola shipped a better File Manager on the original Q and has replaced Office Mobile with Documents To Go on the Q9m. I also think Motorola uses Opera on one of the Q line. The point is that device OEMs have the power to do many of the things you want already.

    Here are the areas that I think Microsoft should improve:

    * IE Mobile should be improved as mentioned above.

    * The PIM functions should be beefed up some and integrated. (Still provide Calendar, Contacts and Tasks icons to get to those areas directly, though.)

    * The Calendar specifically should make it obvious how appointments in other time zones work (a source of confusion for *years* in Windows Mobile). I’ve written in several places how that could easily be done, so I won’t do it here.

    * Windows Media Player should come with additional codecs (and have the ability to add more).

    * File Explorer should be improved (although I wouldn’t bundle all of Resco Explorer’s functions, like encryption, FTP and compression).

    * Provide a standard task manager.

    4. More finger-friendly interface

    I agree to some extent. Many things should be able to be done without the stylus.

    However, as mentioned, WM devices are more than entertainment devices, so I don’t have a problem with some applications requiring a stylus. Let’s face it — for many tasks, our fat fingers are too imprecise. For example, try implementing a good drawing program that uses only your fingers. It would be like comparing finger painting to a real artist.

    Even the iPhone fails here in some respects, I think. I tried using the keyboard and found it very hard to type accurately. Maybe it’s just because I don’t know some of the tricks or didn’t spend enough time using it, but I’ve heard other people say that the Backspace is the most-used key.

    It’s a tradeoff. You want to show as much information as you can on these smaller screens, but that makes accessing the details about something less finger-friendly. You can make items bigger, but then you have to scroll more to find things easily.

    I think a good compromise would be allowing the user to customize things more. Keep things as they are for people who don’t mind (or actually like) the stylus, but allow an option to space items apart more for those who want to use their fingers. That should keep much of the familiar Windows Mobile look-and-feel without requiring major redesign.

    Of course, the above only applies to the Pocket PC (Classic and Professional) versions of Windows Mobile. The smartphone (Standard) version doesn’t have a touchscreen, so this point is moot for them.

    5. Better Bluetooth stack

    Here’s another instance where your history is off. I don’t believe that Microsoft “replaced the Widcomm Bluetooth stack with their own”; the Widcomm stack was *never* part of Windows Mobile to begin with.

    Here’s some history. As far as I know, the first Pocket PC with Bluetooth support was the iPAQ 3870, and that used the Widcomm stack. As Bluetooth became more popular, Microsoft probably realized that Windows Mobile should have a Bluetooth stack, so they created their own (as Microsoft often does). That debuted in Windows Mobile 2003, not WM 5 as you claim (source: ), and it was limited.

    However, OEMs still can (and do) bundle other Bluetooth stacks. My iPAQ hx2795 has a Broadcom (they bought Widcomm) stack, as does my Motorola Q. (That’s why some Bluetooth software doesn’t work with those devices; it was written for the Microsoft stack.)

    As most of my devices don’t use the Microsoft stack, I won’t dispute your claims that it has flaws, and Microsoft should certainly improve things if it does. But don’t claim that Microsoft replaced your stack.

    6. Making a phone call should not be this hard

    I assume that you’re talking about the Pocket PC implementation of Windows Mobile here, because the Smartphone version works easily. On my Motorola Q, I just go to the Home screen and press keys. If I’m entering a number, it shows up in a window and I can press Send; if I’m entering a name, matching contact records are displayed below the number window and I can scroll to the one that I want and press Send. It’s very easy, and you shouldn’t lump all Windows Mobile versions together.

    I haven’t used a Pocket PC Phone, but I have heard that dialing requires running an application. I presume that’s because the original Pocket PC Phones kept the large screens of their PDA brethren and didn’t have physical keypads (or keyboards), so dialing was treated like most other functions and required running a program.

    As screens have shrunk on phone devices and keypads and keyboards have become common, I agree that running an application should be unnecessary. In fact, I thought that one of the improvements in WM 6 Professional was making the phone dialer behave more like the Smartphone. Didn’t that happen? If not, it should.

    However, saying that “there absolutely cannot be more than two taps between your Today Screen and a phone call” is ridiculous. You can’t even dial a number with fewer than seven taps (assuming no auto-complete), and selecting a contact can easily require more than two (counting typing and scrolling as “taps”).

    7. Close button confusion

    As the Microsoft blog post you quoted said, the real dumb decision was making it look like the Close button in Windows instead of a Minimize icon (like a down-arrow). Other than that, I don’t have a problem with the button hiding the application instead of closing it. As Microsoft said, if you want to access the program again, it’s faster if it’s still running, and getting things done quickly is important on a mobile device.

    You also shouldn’t speak for all of us when you say that it doesn’t make “an iota of sense to me or anyone else who uses Windows Mobile”. I use Windows Mobile every day (for years) and it makes sense. Whether anybody agrees with the decision is another matter, but if they seriously can’t understand why it was done like that, even after reading the Microsoft blog post, that’s their problem.

    That said, I do agree that Microsoft should allow customizing the behavior of the button. Even better would be adding an actual task manager (as I mentioned above). Regardless, I just don’t see the current behavior as the horrible thing that many people do.

    8. ActiveSync woes

    Here I mostly agree with you. In fact, I even wrote an editorial about what I’d fix in ActiveSync .

    To be fair, I’ve actually found that ActiveSync works pretty well most of time. The problems start when it *doesn’t* work right. You get error dialogs with stupid numeric error codes instead of English messages, and if a file can’t synchronize, they don’t tell you which one.

    I haven’t tried Windows Mobile Device Center yet (I just bought a Vista laptop a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t tried connecting my devices yet), but I have read that it has problems, too.

    Another big problem is with the ActiveSync development team — they keep removing useful features. Network (and WiFi) access? Gone! Category synchronization? Gone (in WM 5 devices)! Backup/Restore? Gone (in WM 5 devices)! Why remove those useful features? (I know that network syncing was removed due to corporate security worries, but I’m not sure that I buy that.)

    9. Better Registry access

    We mostly disagree here. Regarding the power of the registry editor, you asked “why can’t Windows Mobile give you this kind of control natively?” Well, for some things, it does — using Settings applets and program options. Most things that you set in the Settings applets or as options in programs end up changing registry values.

    We agree that most users should never have to edit the registry directly. The problem, though, is what happens for those useful items that don’t have Settings applets or program options to control them. Personally, I think that the items most people edit the registry for probably fall in a few categories:

    * Items that weren’t working quite right

    * Items that Microsoft didn’t have time to test

    * Items not exposed because Microsoft felt they added more confusion than value (perhaps by making the user interface too complicated, perhaps because the feature isn’t easily explained)

    * Items that affect functions specific to a particular device (which were probably added by an OEM and Microsoft doesn’t even know about)

    That said, I agree that many of the long-standing hacks should probably be tested and exposed to the user, but editing the registry (either directly or via a simplifying application) is absolutely the wrong way to do it.

    For example, the Screen Settings applet could have a tab to set the colors of user interface elements (like the Windows Display Control Panel applet does). In fact, that was done a long time ago by a third-party. Selecting font sizes should be handled similarly.

    For OEM-specific items, the OEM should add a Settings applet to control these options (and many do). You can’t blame those on Windows Mobile and Microsoft, though.

    And don’t forget that many of these hacks aren’t really necessary at all. Windows Mobile still works perfectly well for those people who never hack the registry. You may think that exposing a hack is easy, but read the “I’m Just A Feature” Microsoft blog post if you haven’t done so before.

    I also disagree with your claim that “for the most part, a lot of the registry can be used to create a vast level of customization and functionality.” I would venture that less than 5% (and maybe 1%) of the registry has documented hacks. That’s hardly “most” or even “a lot” of it. That’s another reason that most users should never have to edit the registry directly.

    Finally, one statement is obviously wrong — your claim that people “must purchase a third-party application” to edit the registry. While you may need to *get* a third-party program, you certainly don’t need to *purchase* one. There are free registry editors out there (like PHM).

    Again, I agree with most of the overall intent of the article. There are plenty of places where Windows Mobile could be (and should be) improved.

    However, I think you’re wrong on many specifics and got carried away in many places. Here are two final examples.

    Regarding WM 7 and 8 fixing some or all of these issues:

    “The question is, will soon enough end up as too late as he iPhone, Android, and Symbian run roughshod over the new and improved Windows Mobile before it ever gets released?”

    Android? As John McEnroe would say, “You can’t be serious.” Do you honestly believe Android will “run roughshod” over Windows Mobile? What Android devices have you seen available at all? I’ll be shocked if Android gets significant market penetration before WM 7 comes out.

    As for the iPhone, yes, it’s been phenomenally successful, but it has lots of problems, too, specifically:

    * A non-removable battery — Most Windows Mobile devices stopped using non-removable batteries years ago, and Apple got sued over that.

    * No Bluetooth A2DP — How can a music device with Bluetooth not support A2DP?

    * A mediocre typing experience

    * Limited E-mail support

    * No IM client

    * No official support for third-party applications (yet)

    * No over-the-air song downloads (at first)

    The iPhone, while undeniably cool, is hardly the perfect device, especially for business users. How it evolves remains to be seen.

    And finally:

    “The good news, however, is that Windows Mobile has not strayed so far as to be completely unfixable. A few tweaks here and there, and a good shine should could have it ready to in no time.”

    How could you even say that? You said that Microsoft should rewrite ActiveSync/WMDC *from scratch*. If they haven’t gotten it right in almost ten years, why do you think they could do it “in no time”?

    The same is true of IE Mobile and probably some of the other built-in programs. You’re asking for a completely different design, not “a few tweaks”.

    Those issues definitely need to be addressed, but it just goes to support my contention that Windows Mobile isn’t really “broken”. Something broken like you claim would require more than tweaks.

    If you’ve read this far, I’m impressed at your diligence. :-)

  8. #8 by Pony99CA on December 30, 2007 - 10:56 am

    Nuts, the URLs I posted above disappeared (and there’s no Preview Post option). Here are the URLs missing:

    * For the story I posted about this article on pocketnow:

    http://pocketnow.com/index.php?a=portal_detail&t=news&id=4888

    * For the WM 2003 comments about Pocket IE and the Bluetooth stack:

    http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/wireless/2003/07/23/mobile_2003.html

    * For my editorial on ActiveSync:

    http://thoughts.svpocketpc.com#THOUGHT_ACTIVESYNC_RESOLUTIONS

    * For the “I’m Just a Feature” Microsoft blog post:

    http://blogs.msdn.com/windowsmobile/archive/2006/09/11/749942.aspx

    Sorry about that….

  9. #9 by dgoldring on December 30, 2007 - 2:56 pm

    Wow. OK, Pony. That is an enormous response (and of course, I did read the whole thing). I am going to try to respond to most of it, but I am sure I will miss a few things.

    A few general comments. I think we both agree that the Windows Mobile team has its work cut out for them. We may just disagree on where they should focus that attention.

    Also, I do believe Microsoft is an innovator. I do not take innovator and inventor to be the same thing. But Microsoft has taken pieces that may have been created by someone else and created a whole new cloth which results in Windows being one of the most recognizable brand names in the world. That IS innovation. Innovation is as much about how we use it as what we use.

    I also never intended this to be a direct comparison between Windows Mobile and the iPhone. There are a few features which I directly compared, such as the interface and Internet experience, but overall, I never intended to directly compare the two or even imply that the iPhone is a superior phone. I just think it has some components which are superior. I do think it is awfully telling, however, that the first generation iPhone has gained a market penetration and taken so many users away from Windows Mobile. And that is even considering it is only available on one network.

    I also think it is very telling that although Windows is instantly identifiable on desktop computers, very few average users are familiar with Windows Mobile. Say Blackberry or Palm, or even iPhone to someone and they instantly know what you are talking about. Most of my friends still don’t know what a Windows Mobile device is. They thing it is basically the same as Palm. I blam Microsoft’s poor marketing for that. Look at how Apple and the iPhone are marketed. Then look at how many Windows Mobile ads you see on TV. They just have no mass media market penetration which would lead to name recognition. And when they do get mass market penetration…well, have you see the Zune ads lately?

    Also, my main point here was that if Microsoft is going to include a function, then they should give you something that works reasonably well. I am not saying that every third party program should be included. But if they say there is a file explorer, then it should not be a bare bones minimal file explorer. Microsoft Office, at least until Windows Mobile 6, stripped out most of your formatting settings meaning that it was impossible to go back and forth to edit a document. I agree that an OS should be the cord, but if MS Office is going to be included then they should put the energy into making it better.

    As for your comment on the Bluetooth, thank you for the clarification on the history there. My Dell Axim did have the Widcomm stack and I did not realize that was unique.

    You lost me in your comment about Activesync. Where did I say it could be fixed “in no time”. I said it needs to be scrapped and they should start over from scratch. But I do not recall saying that could be done in no time.

    And phone dialing absolutely can be done in two taps. There are dozens of programs which allow you to use voice commands, speed dial, and photo dialing to call your contacts in two taps (maybe three). Dialing your contacts from the native Windows Mobile contacts is too difficult and unintuitive. You need to scroll through very small text and then tap and hold to bring up a context menu from which you select dial. Try doing all of that while driving (or maybe don’t).

    Also, thank you for pointing out that there are freeware registry editors available. Good point, and that was just an oversight. Thanks also for the articles you linked. I will have to check those out.

    Doug

  10. #10 by ADAMZ on December 30, 2007 - 6:39 pm

    >>Dialing your contacts from the native Windows Mobile contacts is too difficult and unintuitive. You need to scroll through very small text and then tap and hold to bring up a context menu from which you select dial. Try doing all of that while driving (or maybe don’t).<<

    Are you kidding? Dialing contacts from the native Windows Mobile 6 Standard and Professional dialers is easier than any other smartphone. From the today screen or home screen, start typing the name of the person you want to call or enter the numeric digits. The software offers predictive matches based on your input. When the person you want to call appears in the list (usually at the top), press the down arrow and then press the call send button. This is extremely easy to do while driving since you can build motor memory to feel for the letters on the keyboard. Once you’ve typed the name of the person you want to call without even looking at the screen, all you have to do is glance over to confirm you typed correctly, and then press the call send button which you can feel with your fingers on the phone. Of course you need a hardware based keypad to do the no-eyes dialing. There’s no need to activate context sensitive menus. Try dialing with the T-Mobile Shadow and you’ll see how amazingly easy it is to do one-handed without looking.

    Also, the Widcomm bluetooth stack was replaced because it couldn’t do voice dialing through a bluetooth headset. It took a very long time for the Widcomm stack to support that, and even then it never worked very well. Furthermore, it never worked with Microsoft Voice Command. The Microsoft Bluetooth stack does do voice dialing quite well and I think this is pretty important. Also, I’ve never had lost connection problems with the Microsoft stack, but I’m pretty sure the reception issues were hardware related. The JAMin had great bluetooth reception as does the Kaiser, and both of those use the Microsoft Bluetooth stack. Furthermore I believe I read somewhere that Microsoft made it much easier for 3rd party developers to interface with their Bluetooth stack than with the Widcomm stack.

    The Today/Home screen on Windows Mobile is designed for efficiency. It’s much more likely that when you turn on your smartphone you’re going to want to see basic information like upcoming appointments, unread messages, date/time, tasks, etc. It would be a huge reduction in efficiency if you turned on your phone and only saw a bunch of non-informative program icons which you subsequently had to tap on in order to find the information that you were looking for. The reason it looks cluttered is because there’s a lot of important information there and people who need to access that information need it to be accessible all at once. A cleaner, less functional Today screen would greatly reduce the ease-of-use for power-users who need to access their information instantly.

  11. #11 by Pony99CA on December 31, 2007 - 3:58 am

    Thanks for taking the time to read my novel, Doug. :-)

    I know you didn’t mean this as a comparison with the iPhone. I’ve just seen a lot of iPhone vs. Windows Mobile comparisons lately, and was pointing out that the people doing them likely forgot the iPhone wasn’t targeted at the same audience as Windows Mobile phones.

    While it does have some superior features, I’m not sure how many users it has taken from Windows Mobile. Have you seen any numbers on that? I’m sure it has taken some, because it was the new kid on the block, but I’d be surprised if there was a wholesale defection.

    As for name recognition, BlackBerry, Palm and iPhone are different than Windows Mobile. Those other devices have the OS associated with hardware from one OEM (RIM, Palm and Apple), while Windows Mobile is on devices from dozens of OEMs. However, I bet if you went to non-BlackBerry users and mentioned Research In Motion (the maker of the BlackBerry), most of them wouldn’t know what you were talking about.

    I do agree that Microsoft should do a better job of marketing Windows Mobile, though. I’ve seen a few ads that mentioned Windows Mobile, but they were usually from carriers focusing on a device, and Windows Mobile was mentioned as a feature, not the primary selling point.

    Regarding programs, I do agree that a bundled program should work reasonably well, and I think most of them do work reasonably well. Just because a program is bare bones doesn’t mean that it fails to work “reasonably well”.

    To address the two that you mentioned, File Explorer is very basic, and I’d prefer more, but it is functional. You can do all of the basic functions you need on a day-to-day basis.

    Pockeet Word did lose most complex formatting, so round-tripping was frustrating (but I thought they fixed that in WM 5, not WM 6). However, if you were creating an initial draft of a document on your device, Pocket Word was adequate for that if you didn’t need things like tables. That said, it was more of a WordPad Mobile than Word Mobile, and it was embarrassing when Palm OS devices that came with Documents To Go handled Word files better than Pocket PCs with the “official” Microsoft Pocket Word, so I’ll give you that one.

    However, I think you picked the two worst programs on the Pocket PC as your examples. The rest are much better and work quite well, I think. (OK, to be fair, Inbox wasn’t good if you needed HTML E-mail before WM 6, but it was adequate for text E-mail.)

    Sorry I lost you on my ActiveSync comment. I know you said that you thought they should rewrite it from scratch, but your final paragraph summarizing all of Windows Mobile said “A few tweaks here and there, and a good shine should could have it ready to in no time.”

    My point was that you were contradicting yourself. How can things be ready in no time if you want them to rewrite ActiveSync from scratch? Or, for that matter, redesign IE Mobile or make Pocket Outlook equivalent to Pocket Informant/Agenda Fusion, etc. Those aren’t what I’d call “tweaks”; they’re major initiatives. Check out that “I’m Just A Feature” blog post that I linked to and see the effort required to add even a simple feature.

    Finally, regarding dialing, I think there are certainly cases where you *can* dial a number you want with two taps — if the contact is in a speed dial, for example — but you said “there absolutely cannot be more than two taps between your Today Screen and a phone call”, which sounds like it applies to every call you could possibly dial (which is what “absolutely” implies).

    For example, what if the number isn’t in your contacts? As I said, you’ll have to tap at least seven digits (I’m not counting voice dialing for reasons discussed below).

    Even if it is in your contacts, you can’t assume that all numbers you need to dial have been assigned to speed dials. To meet your two-tap (or keypress) requirement, that would mean that you couldn’t have more than 99 (or 100) contacts. That may be reasonable for some people, but I’ve heard of people having 1,000 or more contacts.

    As for photo dialing, I think that would take *more* taps (in general) because photos would take more space and force more scrolling. You might be able to dial some of your contacts in two taps, but if the person you wanted to dial wasn’t on the first page or two of contacts, that would take more than two taps.

    And while voice dialing certainly can be done in two taps (one to activate it, one to confirm the name or number you spoke), I ignored that option because you said “many people rely on voice commands which seems like a cop-out for Windows Mobile.” As you mentioned driving, I think voice dialing is the best way to dial while driving; you shouldn’t be tapping on a PDA (or dialing a phone for that matter) unless you’re stopped.

    Besides, if you count speed dials or voice dialing, Windows Mobile already meets your two-tap requirement, so saying dialing was too difficult would have been a moot point. :-) However, as Adam pointed out, it seems like WM 6 Professional allows Smartphone-style dialing, which is probably the easiest, most intuitive way to dial. It might take more than two taps, but that’s OK with me.

  12. #12 by pedah on January 1, 2008 - 3:06 am

    Hey, a lot of great posts, and the brain strain, crap I think iPopped a blood vessel! Now I’ve got BlackBerries and hairs growing on my palm! I feel like I’ve been given alzheimer’s and all I can do is look out for windows :D

    @ pony, you expended a lot of energy reiterating, quite a few of the points Doug made about windows mobile, interspersed with random interjectional iterations about other OS’s, particularly the comparison of iPhone and WM. I ask you, is the apple focus on creating a UI similair to the Mac UI, so different to the WM focus on creating a UI that relates to their desktop UI such an unrelated strategy?

    I’d ask you to remember, or I’ll let you know, Doug has taken a poll of the team and pulled it together into this post. Seriously, if you didn’t have something to compare WM to, what would you say it was lacking. Not considering third party apps either. That’s what this is about. The inevitable comparisons, are rather moot, as you say iPhone, Symbian, Android focus on different users with different wants and needs. I personally think M$ is slacking off on WM development, for the purpose of revenue raising! The revenue they generate from third party developers licensing their products, is overriding their responsibility to their users. Now we have an OS on the Apple that is very exclusive, which seems to be the same strategy only in infancy; an SDK that’s in development. As M$ has always relied on early release and user input to propel their development, posts that focus on the lacks of the basic operating systems are really important, so are focused responses.
    Could you sorta stay on topic, please :)

  13. #13 by Pony99CA on January 1, 2008 - 4:23 pm

    @pedah

    Sorry, but I think you’re missing the point. I didn’t reiterate Doug’s points; I addressed them, saying where I thought he was right and where I thought he was wrong. The biggest part where I think he (or the team, if you prefer) was wrong was the claim that Windows Mobile is broken. It’s not. It can use some work, sure, but what software can’t?

    As for the iPhone, I only mentioned it because Doug did. As my post was mostly about Doug’s post and Windows Mobile, I’d say that was more than “sorta” on topic.

    As for your question, if there was nothing to compare Windows Mobile to, how would we know *anything* was lacking? It’s a silly question. Besides, my post *did* say what I thought WM was lacking. Focus is important while reading, too….

  14. #14 by dgoldring on January 1, 2008 - 5:57 pm

    Well, I think it is great that you guys found a method of dialing which works for you. The truth is, however, that aside from the Internet Explorer which is frustratingly difficult to use, dialing is probably the number one complaint I hear from windows mobile users. There must be a method of dialing contacts which is intuitive, obvious, and easy for any user, not just power users to identify. There is not currently such a method of dialing.

    I also think you have proven my point about the today screen. It is potentially the most powerful tools on the Windows Mobile platform. Without any third party intervention, however, it is terribly underutilized. I am not saying that what I want on my today screen should be on everyone’s today screen. I am saying taht if I want to launch programs from the today screen, I should be able to do that. If I want to see my calendar or tasks, then I should be able to do that. And it should not require a third party program.

    I must say, however, that I am shocked by your comments regarding Mobile Word. I have spoken with Microsoft employees and power fanboys. No one has ever defended Mobile Word with any sincerity. Likewise with the PIM functionality. I’ll give you that it has been hugely improved in Windows Mobile 6, but that is not saying a whole lot. It is still less than intuitive and not particularly easy to use or powerful. If Microsoft is advertising (to the extent it does advertise) that Windows Mobile can do these things, then it must be able to do so an a manner which is intuitive and effective. What we have now is well short of that mark.

    Doug

  15. #15 by Pony99CA on January 1, 2008 - 8:57 pm

    Doug, I don’t think what Adam and I are doing requires anybody to be a power user. You go to the Home/Today screen and either dial the number you want or type the contact’s name in. How could anything be *more* intuitive? (OK, dialing the contact name may not be obvious, but I suspect the documentation included with the phone tells you how to do that. I don’t think that reading the manual makes somebody a power user, though. :-))

    As for the Today screen, you’re absolutely right that could be better utilized. The Calendar and Appointments plug-ins could show more than one or two days and the Tasks plug-in could show a list of tasks, not just a count. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s broken. It does what it says — gives you an overview of what’s going on today (and, if you click on the plug-ins, you do launch those applications).

    Also, while it’s true that there’s not a generic program launcher plug-in, I don’t think there was intended to be. As I pointed out, the original Windows CE devices *had* a desktop (which is basically a launcher), and Microsoft specifically moved away from that in Pocket PC 2000.

    If you want to launch programs, how hard is it to click Start and Programs (on the Pocket PC, which is almost identical to Windows) or go Home and press the Start softkey (on the Smartphone)? That shows you your programs. If you want to customize that, you can do that in any file browser. It may take a couple of extra taps, but a launcher isn’t really necessary.

    As for Word Mobile, I said that the older Pocket Word was more like WordPad and that it was embarrassing compared to Documents To Go (which came pre-installed on many Palm devices). I also said that it was one of the two worst programs on the Pocket PC. How is that a defense?

    I did say that it could be used as a decent basic text editor, so it’s not *useless*. One of the biggest complaints about the Smartphone OS was that it didn’t have any text editor (it only has a voice notes program). Now that Office Mobile (including Word Mobile) is included in the WM 6 Standard Smartphone build, that problem is fixed. (Well, sort of. You can edit text files, but you can’t create them for some reason, which *is* stupid. However, all you need to do is copy a blank Word file to your phone, then edit it and save it, so there is a work-around that doesn’t require third-party software.)

    Also, I believe Word Mobile in WM 5 and beyond doesn’t lose formatting like Pocket Word did. It doesn’t allow you to create tables and such, though, so it’s still limited in the editing you can do and there’s plenty of room for improvement. However, it *is* evolving (after a long drought). It may not be where you want it to be (and it will probably *never* be equivalent to desktop Word), but that doesn’t mean that it’s junk.

    And I think your claim that third-party programs that extend the Windows Mobile built-in applications should be unnecessary is going way too far. Even if Microsoft crammed the equivalent of desktop Word into the Pocket PC, some people would still want more, so there would be a need for programs that extended or improved the built-in programs. Why do you think people create programs that extend the desktop Office programs?

    Also, as you mentioned power users before, let me ask how many people that aren’t power users even need the capabilities of Office Mobile?

    Finally, what other phone OS includes office applications that compare to Office Mobile? (If you don’t count third-party programs for Windows Mobile, don’t count them on other platforms, either.) If’ the answer is “none”, why are we even discussing this? ;-)

  16. #16 by dgoldring on January 2, 2008 - 11:02 pm

    Pony, I am really very happy that you and apparently Adam have found Windows Mobile so easy to work with. Unfortunately, many of the users whom I have met both here at JAMM and across the web are not as fortunate.

    I hear constant complaints from these users about many of the items which I addressed in my article. These sentiments were also mirrored by the JAMM team when I informally polled them to determine what topics should be addressed.

    It was this mix of average and power users, and some of the complaints they raised, which provided me with the topics for this article. And it is this mix of average and power users to whom my solutions and suggestions were aimed. Obviously, not everyone will have the same complaints or concerns, and I welcome your continued thoughts as to hat Microsoft needs to do in order for Windows Mobile to continue to be a viable platform.

    Doug

  17. #17 by Pony99CA on January 4, 2008 - 2:49 am

    Doug, I gave several suggestions about what Microsoft could do to improve Windows Mobile in my first two posts. And I’m not saying that it’s *easy* to work with, either. I’m just saying that it’s not “broken”.

    In fact, that’s probably why I’ve spent so much time discussing it. I’ve seen a lot of “doom and gloom” pieces about Windows Mobile (especially at Gizmodo), and I don’t think things are nearly that bad. (And, yes, I know your piece wasn’t really that negative, as your concluding paragraph stated, but the title of the article makes it sound like it is.)

    Yes, Windows Mobile could be made easier, more powerful, better looking, etc. I just thought some of your suggestions were a bit off-base, so I wanted to say why and give my own suggestions.

    As you said, though, different people will have different ideas about what needs fixing. Even though we may disagree on a few things, you should be glad that your piece generated this kind of interest. :-)

You must be logged in to post a comment.