Windows Mobile Weekly Roundup

by Todd Ogasawara

Video Viewing Experience on Windows Mobile, Zune, and iPods
Viewings videos on ultra portable devices is nothing new. However, perhaps surprisingly, the oldest of the device families, Windows Mobile, falls far short of a good end-user experience. This is especially true for the under-powered (processor-wise) Smartphone (Standard Edition) where viewing anything except a video specially prepared for it results in a disappointing experience. For example try viewing a video podcast NOT specially prepared for a Smartphone. You will probably see what amounts to still images with a sound track.

The Pocket PC (Professional Edition) video experience is a bit better but still not good. Since Windows Mobile is not designed as a media device, you will find it does things like dim or blank the screen after a timeout period. Normally, this is fine since it is a battery saving feature. However, it is annoying to have to remember to change this setting everytime you watch a video and then set it back when you are done. On the other hand, the faster processors on the Pocket PC (compared to the Smartphones) lets you watch a wider variety of video files (including video podcasts). And, it is not often that you see someone showing a video on an external device connected to a Smartphone or Pocket PC. Despite what Microsoft might claim, these are not real media devices (see any WM5 or WM6 Playlists for example?).
The Zune does a better job since it is designed as media device. However, its non-intuitive user interface (navigation pad) makes something as simple as scrolling and selecting from a list tedious. Once a video gets rolling, it is a pretty good experience though and optional docks make it easy to connect to an external display.

The iPod touch has the best video and user interface I’ve seen so far. Its one drawback is that Apple decided that all 6th generation iPods require docks with a special chip for video playback on external devices. So, previous video docking solutions do not work with the latest iPod models.

The 5th (previous) generation iPods only had one model that provided video playback. But, it has a huge existing accessory infrastructure that lets you easily and relatively cheaply purchase devices to provide a larger video screen. For example, there are several portable DVD players with integrated LCD screens that also have iPod docs built-in. This lets you use the player to show and listen to videos on a larger screen.

For the moment, it is a toss-up between the 5th and 6th generation iPods. As soon as the 3rd party accessory market catches up (probably this holiday season or early 2008), the 6th generation will be the device of choice. It will be interesting to see what the Zune 2.0 delivers. And, unfortunately, my favorite overall mobile device family (Windows Mobile) is down for the count when it comes to Media playback.


FTC Separates Fact from Fiction on Cell Phone Do Not Call Registry
This is slightly off-topic. But, I figured a few other people might find it useful information (I did) in this article from Government Technology magazine.

FTC Separates Fact from Fiction on Cell Phone Do Not Call Registry

There’s a 7-point bullet list specifically related to cell phones.


Frank McPherson’s PocketPCHow2.com
My old friend Frank McPherson is back from his little blog sabbatical at PocketPCHow2.com. He’s re-emerged from the shadows and has a mini-overview of the new HTC TyTn II (AKA Kaiser) Pocket PC Phone Edition (oops, I mean, Professional Edition). I’m a huge fan of the earlier generation TyTn. Frank provides feedback on both the good and the bad of the new TyTn II. So, head over to his blog if you are interested in getting the perspective of TyTn II from a WiMo expert.


Asustek Eee PC Gets, Um, Real-er
Engadget reports on the four Asustek Eee PC models announced today. And, Asustek finally has an official looking Eee PC product page…

Asustek Eee PC 4G

So, while I can’t find any prices for the four models or anywhere to order one. It seems like a slighly more real (real-er?) product. Of course, The Palm Foleo had models announced, an official looking product page, and even prices revealed. So, I’m still not quite convinced that the Eee PC has emerged from vaporware quite yet. However, if it actually appears in the U.S., this UMPC-sized Linux based notebook with a 7 inch LCD display looks like something to seriously consider.


Nokia N810 Internet Tablet
Nokia announced the N810 at the Web 2.0 Summit. Engadget (1st link) and Information Week (2nd link) both have coverage on the announcment (nothing on the Nokiausa.com site yet).

Nokia N819 gets official

Nokia Launches ‘Context-Aware’ Internet Tablet

The first thing you notice about the N810 is that it has a physical slide-out QWERTY keyboard (see the photo in the Engadget article) unlike its touchscreen only devices that preceded it. At $479 it should make for an interesting race between the N810 and the Asustek Eee PC. The N810 doesn’t have has much storage as the top-end Eee (although you can insert an SD flash card for more storage), but it is smaller and lighter. The $1000+ UMPCs based on Microsoft Windows need to get into the $500 price range if they intend to compete in the nano-scale mobile market.


Use a Virtual Machine to Sync with an Old Pocket PC or Smartphone?
I tend to listen to the podcast version of Leo Laporte’s Tech Guy radio program when I want to listen to something interesting while driving but don’t want to pay attention to very single word (which I tend to do when listening to something like the Security Now podcast). I have a backlog of these files on my iPod. Today, I was listening to Show 363 from June 23 and noted the segment about someone who has an old Jornada Pocket PC who can’t sync with Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) on Windows Vista.

The issue is that WMDC only supports devices going back to Windows Mobile 2003. The last Jornada model was a 2002 device. So, you can’t sync it on a Vista PC. The caller seemed aware of the issue and asked if a Windows XP virtual machine running on Vista might be able to sync with the Jornada if ActiveSync was installed on the Windows XP Guest OS. Leo correctly suggested using either VMware Workstation or Parallels Desktop for Windows. However, the caller asked if Microsoft Virtual PC (which is free) might work too. Leo agreed. Alas, that is not the case. Microsoft Virtual PC has virtually (pun intended) no USB device support. So, it wouldn’t see a Pocket PC or Smartphone and partner it to ActiveSync. VMware Workstation and Parallels Desktop for Windows, on the other hand, have pretty decent USB device support and should be able to run ActiveSync in a Windows XP Guest OS and partner with an older Pocket PC or Smartphone. I haven’t tested this myself. So, you might want to verify this using a 30-day trial before plunking down your hard earned dollars. I have VMware Workstation 6 though. So, I’ll get around to testing this idea one of these days.

FYI: You aren’t limited to virtual machine running on Windows Vista. If you use a Mac, Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion have good USB device support too. The wrinkle in this story is Apple is releasing a major upgrade (Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard) next week Friday. All this should still work under Leopard. But, it wouldn’t hurt to check first. I’ve got my upgrade copy pre-ordered and plan to install it next weekend.