What’s Next Windows Mobile?

Despite all the iPhone posts around here lately, I’m still a big fan of Windows Mobile. For that reason, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what is next for Window Mobile. What sort of plans does Microsoft have for the OS? Are they gearing it for the consumer market? Or are they only interested in enterprise? And what about rumors of a scalable version of the standard desktop OS that would run on a mobile device?

So if you’d like a little insight into the sort of things a software company thinks about as they decide on their future plans…read on!

In recent months Microsoft has been a little bit mysterious about Windows Mobile. (Perhaps they are taking a page from Apple’s book of marketing?) The result is that I’ve spent a fair amount of time puzzling over what the future holds for the Windows Mobile operating system. I do this in part, because I need to keep my finger on the pulse of the industry as I prepare to make decisions about the future direction for our company. The other reason is that, as I mentioned, I like the Windows Mobile OS and I’m just plain curious about it!

That said, here are a few of my musings…

Windows “Enterprise” Mobile: So maybe MS is planning to position themselves as theenterprise platform. I’ve seen quite a few of my friends who work for large corporations coming home with shiney new Windows Mobile devices to replace their BlackBerries. This makes a lot of sense since their desktop products already have a strong foothold in this area and their enterprise mobile solutions seem really strong. And you have to love the flexibility the OS gives you. If you need proof of this, the next time you’re in an Apple store, check out the handhelds the employees are using. They aren’t iPhones! :)

Windows “Touch” Mobile: Or maybe MS wants to go head-to-head with the iPhone as a core consumer device. They certainly offer a compelling alternative to people who want more control over their handheld computing experience. The question, of course, is whether MS can market this. It strikes me that MS has never had the greatest marketing team on the planet. Attempts to make their products “cool” end up looking like John Hodgman wearing a turtle neck and spouting “Hey, dude.”

Windows “Zune Phone” Mobile:I know how people feel about the Zune but MS does have a proven track record at breaking into markets “they don’t belong in.” Look at the XBox. It isn’t impossible that MS could come out with a really strong Zune Phone that offers people a choice. People like to comparison shop. If Microsoft can offer a feature set that is almost as easy to use as iPhone but with the flexibility we’ve come to expect from WM, this might work!

Windows “Mini-Desktop” Mobile: This is one that really has me intrigued. A little while back I read a blog that talked about a plan for the new desktop OS to be scalable. That is to say, the same core OS would function on a variety of device regardless of their hardware. This would be an amazing feat and if MS could pull it off it might be a first step towards a true “everywhere computer.” No more maintaing unique environments with separate software installations and constant compatability issues. Your desktop would be your handheld would be your laptop would be your web app. I’m sure that something like this is in the future, I just wonder if MS might be further along than we know?

So there you have it – my musings on Windows Mobile. Whatever the result, it looks good for us. Our application line up is universal making them equally suited for the enterprise environment or the individual consumer. And scalability is something we’ve been dealing with for the past 11+ years!

So what are your thoughts? Where do you think the Windows Mobile OS is heading?

15 thoughts on “What’s Next Windows Mobile?

  1. Surur

    WM 6.1 has finished what was needed to put in place from corporate support POV. The OS can now join domains, be administered remotely, and has policies coming out of the wazoo. I dont see any more work needed to be done on that front.

    The next area of attack is the consumer, which is where WM 7 will come in. The business foundation will still be there, but it will be all about wowing the consumer. Thinks like animations, media, zune integration, multi-touch ect.

    Qualcomm amongst others have talked about WM7 as a mini-notebook OS, but I cant see how a UI designed for finger use will be appropriate for a full-sized keyboard device, which suggest there will be WM variant.

    Because HTC works very closely with Microsoft, I suspect WM7 will look a lot like TouchFlo3D.

  2. Andrew

    I have always liked WinMo, but honestly the battery life was terrible compared to the Blackberry. If MS wants to take the lead, that should be number one priority. If they could develop an OS that supported Push email and could stay up for 4-5 days, they would lead the market.

    I recently switched to the iPhone. If I am only going to get a day with Push email then let me have a gorgeous screen on a phone that works. I could never go to WinMo Pro (touchscreen version) as all the icons are designed with stylus in mind. It is almost impossible to use the phone without the stylus, as a finger is to big to push anything but the dial pad.

    Finally, they need to put some time into the browser. Pocket IE is just about unusable – it feels like i am running IE3.x, most pages don’t render well, or at all. I gave up using the Internet due to the limitations of PIE – and I have never been impressed with Opera Mini or Mobile – used them both.

    I never would have left WinMo though if Ilium had not ported eWallet. It is my number one application and i can’t live without it – I carried both my WinMo for personal use and BB for work so I could have eWallet and email. Now my company supports iPhone and Exchange sync, so I have an iPhone that also runs eWallet.

    As always thanks for great products that just work.

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  4. Peter

    Gotta agree with the consumer focus. Battery life to an extent, but I see a focus on media as well. From what I can see, the average consumer wants an easy to use phone and if it does media, it needs to do it well.

    I guess I see this moving towards the “Zune phone” area right now. I’d prefer the mini-desktop myself, but that’s just so I could handle things without pulling out my laptop. :) And yes, PocketIE is a joke in WM6 and prior. I really hope that’s been addressed satisfactorily in WM7+.

  5. Kevin White

    Thanks (partly? mostly?) to Apple, I see things going towards the whole finger-touch area. Having used stylus-based PDAs since 1999, being able to accurately operate a device simply with your finger is a great convenience. The seemingly obvious thing to do with a touch screen is push it with your finger. Now that I’ve been using an iPhone for a while, having to pull out a stylus to interact with a device – or move around just with arrow keys – seems so odd.

  6. Rob

    I agree with Kevin, I’ve had my iPod Touch since Feb and every time I pull out my Palm TX I find myself wanting to swipe the screen with my finger to unlock it! Then I have to fumble with the spindly little stylus poking it at the screen. However, once using it, I usually like the precision of the stylus. On balance, however, the convenience and gracefulness of using just a finger wins.
    Once we get syncing for ewallet and a decent syncing tasks application (holding my breath for ListPro) I’ll say goodbye to my stylus for good.

  7. Chris

    I have not delved into the iPhone experience yet. But every time my friends show me there’s, (after I get over all the cool features it does have) I’m not impressed with the limited amount of info on the screen. I use ListPro as my brain. It tells me everything I would otherwise have to remember. It’s filled with more info than I care to think about. The advantage of using a stylus is you can cram much more into a view. (Yes, I know the iPhone has cool scrolling.) I don’t mix my phone with my info device I’m happier with them separate. Larger screens are my preference as well. I may eventually go for an iPod Touch but I’d love to scrunch down the view and use a stylus. Then again, who knows maybe by the time I get one my eyes will be happy for an excuse for a less filled screen.

  8. Kevin White

    Chris, you make a really good point about information density. eWallet for iPhone has ‘card view’ like our other versions of eWallet, and we’ve had quite a few comments that the font’s too small and that a zoom feature or font adjustment feature would be helpful.

    (We also have had reports that ListPro’s default font size on WM devices is too small.)

    Of course, I’m sure if we made it bigger someone would say that they wanted to see more information on the screen and now want to make it smaller.. :)

    Several applications I used on my Treo 650 had ‘high resolution’ mode, which was really ‘make everything half as big so you get twice as many’ mode. While it let me see something like 20-odd contacts in my replacement Contacts program, I couldn’t read them or tap on them accurately!

  9. Andrew

    As I anxiously await eWallet sync for the iPhone, I am now checking your blog on a regular basis…. one thing I have found that would improve usability is a link back to the Ilium Software home page – Surely WordPress will let you put a link back somewhere…..

  10. Andrew

    Sorry, in regards to the link to the home page, I meant from within the blog (like in the footer) as I hit the home page of iliumsoft, then hit the read blog link an go to the latest blog entry. To get back to iliumsoft.com I have to either hit the back button a few times, or go to the blog home page.

    Just a suggestion as I am rarely at the blog homepage, but may use the blog nav arrows to move between entries.

  11. Julie

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for the idea! I’ve added a link to our main site’s home page that you can find in the footer on any blog page now.

  12. Vincent Benedict Castro

    I think Windows Mobile is lacking on the multimedia and browser end. Windows Media Player needs to be updated both on mobile devices and the desktop. I mean podcasts aren’t even supported yet, good thing I have NewsBreak. WM7 development should not gloss over this if they want to attract consumers.

    On the browser end PIE needs a lot of work as well. Safari Mobile and Opera Mobile are way ahead over PIE. Faster networks beg for browsing and using PIE isn’t the best of experiences.

    I do hope Microsoft encourages ODMs to include hardware keyboards on some of their devices I don’t want to go back to touch only, multi touch or not on WM7. I think manufactures are trying to hard to come out with iPhone killers.

    I noticed that Asian languages like Chinese (Simplified or Traditional), Japanese or Thai are usually not included. hoping that WM7 will have ALL the languages built in and accessible to users. I think it’s retarded to have to install a program to display and write in Chinese. I think doing this would open up more opportunities in Asia which is a huge market.

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