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.

Use Bluetooth with ActiveSync instead of USB
Microsoft took away ActiveSync over the network (wired and wireless) a few versions ago and did not give it back with Windows Mobile Device Center. But, the sometimes flaky USB connection is not your only alternative.

My K-JAM Pocket PC Phone Edition, for example, syncs on the first attempt over USB. But, it somehow corrupts ActiveSync on the desktop for subsequent syncs unless I reboot my PC (and, yes, I've tried terminating and restarting the ActiveSync service). None of my other Windows Mobile devices causes this problem. Just the K-JAM. My solution has been sync the K-JAM using Bluetooth exclusively. This does not corrupt ActiveSync for subsequent sync sessions. The only downside is that I need to initiate ActiveSync from the K-JAM.

The GeekZone has detailed information on setting this up....

Bluetooth ActiveSync Guide for Windows XP Service Pack 2

If you have ActiveSync Bluetooth issues, take a look at this Microsoft Bluetooth FAQ...

Frequently asked questions about Microsoft Bluetooth-enabled devices

Windows Vista Windows Mobile Device Center Illustrated Tour

I installed Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) 1.0 on a PC running Windows Vista Ultimate Edition. You can find an illustrated guide through the WMDC partnership creation process at...

Illustrated WMDC Partnership Creation

Couple of quick notes before you click on the link above...

Installing WMDC took a very long time... Many minutes. I have no idea why this process took so long. Other applications have not taken very long to install under Windows Vista. To make matters worse, the installation process instructed me to reboot after it completed. ActiveSync (such as it is) did not require a reboot after installation.

The process of partnering (see Step 4 in the illustrated guide) also took a long long time (many minutes). This is not too unusual for Windows Mobile 5 devices. But, I was synching with a Windows Mobile 2003 device which normally does not take as long to create a partnership.

The menus have a kind of hybrid Xbox/Vista look. Lots of white space (or green space as the case may be). I would prefer a set of legacy pull-down menu lists going across the top or a ribbon navigator like Office 2007 apps. It would be much faster to navigate.

The decision to go with a Xbox-y consumerish WMDC design doesn't make sense since Microsoft is aiming their Windows Mobile device at the Enterprise (vs. the Apple iPhone consumer market).

That said, the process was reasonably smooth (though very slow). I did, however, get a bunch of duplicate recurring events in my calendar. WMDC did not ask how it wanted me to handle events in the Outlook 2007 calendar in relation to the existing items in the Smartphone's calendar. I also see a small number of duplicated contacts in my Contacts list.

Windows Mobile Calendar Events That Don't Stick
What do you consider to be your master calendar? Your PDA or your desktop calendar? For many of us, the answer is clearly our PDA (or phone). It is always with us and the most likely thing to be updated first. But, for many of us this rule more a 95/5 rule rather than a 100/0 rule. If you use a Windows Mobile Smartphone or Pocket PC, watch out for this gotcha...

I sometimes create an event using Microsoft Outlook on my desktop. This usually happens for an event with a lot of information that I'm copying and pasting from email or a vCal file. Sounds reasonable, right? But, what do you think happened in the following situation?

  1. I created an appointment for the next day in Outlook on my desktop
  2. I synced my Windows Mobile Smartphone with the desktop
  3. The appointment is now on the Smartphone
  4. Early the next morning I was told that the meeting was postponed until tomorrow
  5. I changed the date for the event to the next day and checked to make sure the change was visible on the Smartphone
  6. The Smartphone was then synced to the same desktop with Outlook again.

What do you think happened? If you guessed that the desktop Outlook appointment setting took precedent over my Smartphone and changed the event on the Smartphone back to the now wrong day, you guessed correctly. Try this yourself. I can reproduce this on various generations of Windows Mobile devices.

The moral is that you might think that your Pocket PC or Smartphone is your master calendar. But, ActiveSync has other ideas. Changes made to a calendar appointment on a Windows Mobile device only sticks after ActiveSync if the event was originally created on the device. It unsticks and reverts to the original date/time if the event was created using Outlook. Yuck.

Windows Mobile 6?

The wraps are off of Windows Mobile 6 (WM6). Other sites will give it much fuller coverage than I will. So, I won't focus on new features. If you want to read about that and see more screenshots, take a look at some of the items on the Pocket PC Thoughts site as well as many other great sites that focus on Windows Mobile. ModernNomads, for example, has a detailed WM6 description for you to read in the article What will Windows Mobile 6 bring for the highly mobile people?
My limited experience with WM6 left me lukewarm. I suspect it is because I am not a Microsoft Exchange Server user. From a non-enterprise user perspective, WM6 will probably seem like Windows Mobile 5 Second Edition: Nice little enhancements, a smattering of new features in the mail and PIM areas, and a slightly different start page look.

With WM6 devices set to roll out after the Apple iPhone, WM6 may look like less of an upgrade by the time devices get past the FCC, through the carriers' test cycles, and actually are available for purchase by consumers and businesses. Businesses, especially those using Exchange Server, will definitely prefer a Windows Mobile 6 device to the Apple iPhone. They won't be limited to a single carrier (only Cingular will carry the iPhone), be able to add custom applications, have a wide-base of third-party applications to choose from, and have reasonably well documented practices to manage the devices in an enterprise setting.

But for consumers? That will be interesting. Although we've heard howls of protest at the iPhone's $499 and $599 price points, consider this... The Cingular 8525 and Palm Treo 750 (both touch screen Windows Mobile 5 devices) cost $399.99 (after subsidizing is figured in). That is not much less than the lower-end iPhone. And, neither one has 4GB of storage like the low-end iPhone.

SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition Developer SDK
Microsoft released...

SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition Developer SDK

...about a month ago. The kit includes a CAB file to install SQL Server 2005 Compact on Pocket PCs and Smartphones running Windows Mobile 2003 and newer.

You can find a Microsoft document about upgrading from SQL Server CE 2.0 to SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition at...

Upgrading from SQL Server CE 2.0 to SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition

Zune Phone? A Blog Dialog with Frank McPherson
My old friend and author of How to Do Everything with Windows Mobile, Frank McPherson, has an interesting take on the much rumored Zune Phone on his blog: What's With the Zune Phone? It is kind of amusing that Frank and I may have arrived at a similar conclusion but are taking different paths to get there. So, I'll pick out what I see as his main points and discuss them one by one. BTW, I'm not saying I am right and Frank is wrong. It is just a different point of view. So, here we go. I'll highlight Frank's points in italics.

  • The Zune Phone is not a reaction to the iPhone. It is an internal competition with Windows Mobile devices. I think the Zune itself is a reaction to the iPod (and the failure of the various WMA/MP3 players to challenge the iPod). The Zune Phone (if it exists) is not so much a reaction to the iPhone as announced at MacWorld but the rumor of the iPhone before it was announced. It takes a long time to design a phone, get it through the FCC, and strike a deal with a carrier. If a Zune Phone is announced soon, it was in the works many months before the iPhone was announced. Quite honestly, I don't think the Zune group cares about anything produced by other Microsoft groups. The Zune group looks a like a rogue group to we outsiders. They didn't support Plays for Sure. They don't appear to work with Vista's Windows Mobile Device Center. They don't appear to have anything to do with the very similar Portable Media Center devices.
  • The Windows Mobile secret weapon is Voice Command for the Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone. Voice recognition (not full continuous speech recognition) is pretty cool indeed. And Microsoft Voice Command is also pretty cool. But, there is one problem... Even though voice command/voice dialing is available on many many phones, and has been for years, hardly anyone uses it. When was the last time you saw/heard any of the thousands of people you've seen using a phone use voice dialing? Generally speaking, most people don't bother to check if their phone can do it. If it can, it is often a pain to set it up. And, if you set it up, it generally only works in a relatively quiet environment (even with a headset on). And, if you are running down a street, your voice sounds different enough to it that voice dialing usually doesn't work. Even handwriting recognition has essentially lost the race. That is why most popular devices now have a thumb QWERTY keyboard. Voice and handwriting recognition is a lot harder than most of us think. And, neither one has reached the point where they are truly useful on small somewhat underpowered mobile device.
  • Microsoft doesn't need to create a Zune Phone. It just needs to improve Windows Mobile. I agree with Frank completely. But, it not only won't happen, it has actually lost functions with each new version. Check out my earlier blog item: Windows Mobile Loses Features With Each Upgrade??? Microsoft is only responding to carrier and enterprise customer feature requests. And, that is, in fact, why I think the Zune group will create a consumer focused Zune Phone that needs to answer to carrier needs but not enterprise needs. As an aside, try this experiment if you have both an iPod and some Windows Mobile Pocket PC or Smartphone: Close your eyes. Then, take the iPod and navigate through various features such as volume control or going through a playlist (forward, backwards, pause, restart). Now, try the same thing with whatever Windows Mobile device using only one hand and, again, not looking. Pretty difficult, if not impossible, right? BTW, try creating a playlist on the Windows Mobile device? If your device is within two generations old, it is impossible. This feature was removed a while back. Now, try creating a playlist on your desktop/notebook and get it to your WM device. Cough cough. Done yet? Try it on your iPod using iTunes. Windows Mobile lost the race as a media device long ago. And, removing features didn't help it over the past couple of upgrades.

It should be interesting to see if the Zune Phone arrives. Here are a couple of predictions (and I'm pretty bad at predictions, so don't put much weight on what I say. This is just for fun :-) :

  1. It will be sold exclusively through Verizon Wireless. It wouldn't make sense to give AT&T Wireless (Cingular) the exclusive and compete head-to-head with the iPhone in the same retail store. It may be available as a GSM phone outside of the US.
  2. Like the iPhone it will not allow 3rd party applications to be installed.
  3. It will have basic email, sms, and PIM functions (like most phones these days) but will not sync with Outlook. It may have its own little desktop PIM for Vista-only.
  4. It may have some VoIP features. Perhaps through a Live Messenger interface.
  5. There will be a horrid looking brown colored version :-)
  6. I will stick with Windows Mobile based devices and not buy a Zune Phone :-)

3 Comments

Ricky
2007-05-22 02:40:13
Regarding Voice Command, you make it sound like you have to pre-record the tags, when in fact you dont.


I find Voice Command in WM6 to be flawless, I can literally say "Play Eric Clapton" and it will queue up and play any Eric Clapton songs on my device, without pre-recording tags.
Also you can rename Start Menu shortcuts and it will update what you need to say to activate them, e.g. I changed Outlook Mobile to just Outlook. Now I just say "Open Outlook".

Todd Ogasawara
2007-05-22 08:48:06
Ricky: My experience with Voice Command does not match yours. VC, like handwriting recognition, varies in from person to person with regard to the experience one gets with it. Your voice, may, in fact, be well tuned for VC and the microphone features on your phone. I have not found that to be the case. That said, I just bought a T-Mobile Dash and will see if its VC+Microphone provides a better VC experience for me when I test it out.
nostromos
2007-06-07 02:40:04
lets take a look on the problem:
1.-my ppc (qtek 2020, windows mobile 2003, windows bt stack)) connects with my pc (vista ultimate,widcomm 5 bt stack). that means no problem on both bt stacks
2.-no connection on wmdc via bt, even configuring it to accept bluetooth connections, but no problem via usb cradle. that means no problem with vista firewall.
so, lets think about: when i connect ppc bt, some services appears on pc bt: activesync, obex, voice gateway... But wmdc works over serial port. Resuming: wmdc needs SERIAL PORT. ppc offers ACTIVESYNC. More problems: activesync software allows to choice com port to connect bt to. wmdc not.
SOLUTIONS:
1.-as i ve read on the net: modify registry values , so we can tell wmdc which com port must be used to connect bt. this com port must be the same one assigned to activesync service when ppc is connected to pc bt stack. in my case: COM5. So, a bit of regedit, look for HKLM\software\microsoft\windows ce services\serial port, and change value, which is usually bluetooth, writting COM5 instead (or whatever com port you have assigned to your activesync service).
then save, close regedit and reboot pc. reconnect ppc and let bt stack add new bt devices so we can reconfigure bt ppc services in order to:
2.-this is my finding: once ppc found, go to select which services we want to use on bt, select activesync and click over configuration. in the new window, you can change the name of the service, that obviously is activesync and put a new name: Serial Port. click accept and finalize and voila!!!. open wmdc on pc, open activesync on ppc, click on connect using bluetooth and youll see how wonderfully wmdc connect with your ppc.