Windows Mobile Weekly Roundup

by Todd Ogasawara

Here's the weekly summary of a mix of Windows Mobile and general mobile tech related items from my personal blog.

Craig Peacock (Microsoft Windows Mobile) Drops an Anniversary Note
I mentioned Craig Peacock (now a member of the Microsoft Windows Mobile product group) and (as far as I call tell) his creation of the first non-Microsoft Windows CE site 10 years ago in an blog entry a few days ago. I asked him to jot down a few thoughts on the last 10 years of Windows Mobile and he was kind enough to comply. You can read his thoughts below...

From Craig Peacock, Microsoft Windows Mobile Product Group

The last 10 years have flown by at such a pace that it's hard to believe. I remember with fond memories that day in November 1996 it was my first trip to the USA it was Comdex Las Vegas I walked into the exhibition area I saw the Microsoft stand and saw a group of ladies walking round with bright yellow shirts on asking if I needed helping finding any stands. The devices in their hands were Casio devices and so next stop the Casio stand, whilst waiting to see the devices (the lines were several people deep) I saw some people who looked rather out of place in their suits and one of them ordering the person at the other end of the phone to get as many of these devices to the stores in the Vegas area as the existing stores were all selling out.. Off I went to a sharper image store if I recall correctly and I was the owner of a nice new Casio A11.

Then with the Microsoft SDK in hand (and the cezoom screen grab utility) I spent some time getting the device connected to the Internet - dialup in those days and figured that was pretty tricky stuff I think I want to document that with some screenshots. Login was via a terminal window and after login I was browsing the web on Pocket Internet Explorer and life was great. With hindsight of these last 10 years some of the challenges and problems that I saw users face with those early devices still happen today.. Questions like "Why doesn't the documentation tell me this?", "How do I get online easily?", "How do I connect this up to my laptop and use it as modem?", "how do I setup my e-mail?" - all familiar to most of you.

Just for a trip back to those days of old - the original email setup page is http://www.craigtech.co.uk/ce-emailhowto.html and the getting connected page is taken from an HP 320LX from early 1997.

I remember some of the criticism from around the time with people saying these gadgets from Microsoft and Casio would never catch on and why do people need to take their email's or documents around with them - funny how things change - I can't imagine not having my email pushed to my Windows Mobile device wherever I am on the globe these days..

What's changed - The software / The hardware / The number of ISVs & applications and of course the integration of Cellular technology into the mobile devices. Push Email and of course the Internet's become a much bigger place.. I haven't had time to update my website in about 6 years or so.. (www.craigtech.co.uk). The software - from those early days of keyboards which didn't even support the uk pound symbol on them to Pocket PCs and Smartphones being available in lots of languages all over the world and now stuffed with lots of features and my oh my look how many different applications exist today.

What's not changed - Online support from MVPs and enthusiasts is still fantastic and provides the now multiple millions of users Windows Mobile devices with help and support. Manufacturer's websites and support sites still aren't the first place people think about when looking for help and getting answers. From those early days I remember seeing Iliumsoft (www.iliumsoft.com) & Bsquare (www.bsquare.com) at the original launch event and it's great to see those early pioneers still doing great things with the Microsoft platform.

If ten years ago Todd would have said to me - Craig in ten years time we'll have devices with color screens, multi-gigabyte hard drives in them, cellular network speeds of over 1.5mbps, streaming media to the device and multi-gigabyte storage cards smaller than a postage stamp and all those with much better battery life and an even better Web Browsing experience I would have said maybe I can believe the Browsing one and the battery life but I'm not so sure..

I wonder what the next ten years will bring in this vibrant and exciting mobile space - I just can't wait to find out..

Craig

Google Spreadsheets Can't Display Certain Excel Mobile Functions
I wanted to take long close look at a spreadsheet on my Pocket PC the other day. So, I emailed it to my Gmail (Google Mail) account from where I could easily download the file to a PC that did not have ActiveSync on it (and on which I did not want to install it). When I opened my email in Gmail, I noticed that one of the options was Open in Google Spreadsheets. A column with text it in appeared but two columns containing date and time functions (e.g., =date(2006,11,18), =time(22,49,00)) were all empty.

I manually typed in a date function to demonstrate to myself that Google Spreadsheets supported that function... and it does. I was able to view the Excel spreadsheet translated to HTML by Gmail as well as download and work with the file showing that Gmail itself left the data unmodified.

It would have been nice to be able to email an Excel Mobile spreadsheet to myself at Gmail, work on it at any web enabled PC, and then mail it back to myself on my Pocket PC. But, oh well, perhaps Google will fix this in the future.

Happy 10th Anniversary Microsoft Windows Mobile

I don't know the actual introduction date for the first Windows CE devices. But, I always considered their launch at Fall Comdex 1996 to be their public introduction. The original devices were pretty spartan by even my 1996 standards. So, I waited until early 1997 to buy my first Windows CE device: An HP 320LX Handheld PC. It was a step up from HP'x 300LX. The 320LX had 4MB RAM (compared to the 300LX's 2MB), a backlit screen, and a CompactFlash slot as well as a PC Card slot. Unlike other Handheld PC, it also had a 640×240 grayscale (greenscale) screen. It was a great device and as you can see from the photos here, it still works! HP engineers really built stuff to last back then (I have a few choice words about the iPAQ line HP inherited from their Compaq merger in some other blog entry). I just stuck in a fresh pair of AA batteries and the HP 320LX fired up. Even the backlight still works fine.

Microsoft's manufacturing partners experimented with all kinds of Handheld PC form factors before the HPC bit the product life dust in 2000 (or thereabouts). You can see the Compaq Aero 8000 Handheld PC behemoth in the second photo. Yep, this monster is a Handheld PC too. It has a 800×600 color screen, built in modem, and a bunch of other interesting features. But, alas the instant-on notebook sized device concept never caught on. The Aero 8000 also suffered from a pitiful battery life. I recall not being able to get much more than an hour of use under battery power. The T-Mobile SDA phone in the photo is just there to help you get a feel of the size of the devices.

Although the Handheld PC platform rode off into the sunset, a good idea never truly dies. We can see that current day Pocket PC Phone Edition devices like the JasJar, K-JAM (both pictured here), and host of QWERTY keyboard enabled Pocket PCs and Smartphones owe a great deal to the original Handheld PC design.

I have to mention the first non-Microsoft Windows CE web site I found before signing off on this blog item: Craig Peacocks Windows CE Pages. I believe he created the site shortly after seeing the first Handheld PCs at Fall Comdex 1996. I didn't attend that Comdex. But, I did go to Fall Comdex 1997 and was able to sync up with Craig in person. Craig's work inspired me to get involved in getting a deeper working understanding of Windows CE and I ended up creating and then managing the MSN Computing Central Windows CE Forum for a number of years. Craig went on to much bigger and better things than I and is currently a key player in the Microsoft Windows Mobile product team!
So, happy 10th anniversary Microsoft Windows Mobile! It will be a blast to see what happens in the next 10 years.

Freeware: XnView Pocket-Image Viewer for Pocket PC
Ran across this freeware image viewer for the Pocket PC the other day...

XnView Pocket

Those of you with older Pocket PC devices might find it especially interesting since its creator provides versions for devices going back to the Pocket PC 2000.

DeveloperOne Agenda One for Smartphone
DeveloperOne released their Agenda One for Smartphone last week and the Pocket PC version this week. I bought a much earlier version years ago for an early model Pocket PC and liked it quite a bit. But, moving from one device to another as I do, I lost my product registration and didn't install it on subsequent devices. For the past 8 months or so I've been using a Windows Mobile Smartphone (T-Mobile SDA) as my primary device. This is quite a change for me since I usually prefer to use a Pocket PC Phone Edition (the i-Mate K-JAM was my previous phone). I still carry a Pocket PC around with me if I need to take notes since I still can't enter text quickly enough using T9 on DTMF layout keyboard.

My Smartphone currently only has two add-on applications: Ilium Software's NewsBreak RSS newsfeed reader and Microsoft's (now defunct) Pocket Streets (most of my data entry related work takes place on a Pocket PC). So, a lot of consideration goes into deciding whether or not to install and try an application on a Smartphone. The weak calendar viewing capabilities of Windows Mobile's integrated calendar finally drove me to install Agenda One just to get an informative week-view on my phone.

Agenda One provides alternate views for Contacts, Tasks, and other Calendar views too. But, for me the winning feature is the week-viewing feature. That alone may convince me to keep it on the Smartphone beyond a test period.