Windows Mobile Weekly Roundup

by Todd Ogasawara

Windows Mobile Focusing on Windows Live
MSN Companion and T-Mobile Dash
Brighthand and ZDNet both recently had blog items commenting on Microsoft reorganizing the Windows Mobile group and focusing the division on Windows Live service. I’m a little worried about this me-too strategy that seems to follow on the heels of Apple’s iPhone (and to a lesser extent iPod touch). Windows Mobile’s greatest strength has always been the rich set of client software available for it that gave it a good disconnected experience. And, what about Windows Live anyway? It is a bunch of barely connected web services that doesn’t seem to have a strategy of its own. How can it be the basis of a Windows Mobile strategy?

I hope history doesn’t repeat itself. Take a look at the photo above. See that big white thing behind the T-Mobile Dash (Windows Mobile Smartphone AKA Standard Edition)? That is not a PC. It is an MSN Companion that like Windows Mobile was based on Windows CE. Its only function was to connect to the web (by phone line or Ethernet) and was based on Interent Explorer 4. It was barely web-ready even when it was introduced though I thought it was a good first start and used it quite a bit as stand up terminal for quick web browsing. The problem is that it was orphaned and never had more that 2 firmware updates (which took a month to roll out to customers). Today, with its lack of a modern browser, it is essentially useless. Even the first Handheld PC or the earlier MS-DOS based handhelds, on the other hand, are still useful with their built-in client applications and third-party software. But, try using a GPS in your current day Windows Mobile device with only Microsoft applications and no phone service (when you are out of a service area for example). Now imagine that there were no 3rd party client-side GPS applications. What would you do?

Microsoft’s strategies have not been firing on all cylinders for the last couple of years. Their stock price and the general reception of major products like Windows Vista (Office being a rare exception) are two prominent examples. I think Windows Live needs a strategy before it can be used a strategy for Windows Mobile. Microsoft should focus on the broken aspects of Windows Mobile like ActiveSync/WMDC (Windows Mobile Device Center), email, and Office Mobile before looking at Windows Live services.

Google Docs for Mobile Devices
Google Docs Mobile
Google announced that a mobile-friendly read-only (ack!) Google Docs web access.

Docs on the go

Head over to to view (but not edit) documents and spreadsheets on an iPhone (iPod touch), Blackberry, or Windows Mobile device. iPhone users can also view presentations (slide decks).

I recorded a quick and dirty 2 minute video demo and placed it on YouTube: Google Docs for Mobile Devices on an iPod touch.

The Have and Have Nots: Windows Mobile vs. iPhone Sites Mobile
The screen shot on the left is of the site on a Windows Mobile 6 Pocket PC (Professional Edition). The screen shot on the left is the same site tweaked for the iPhone on an iPod touch. Although it takes a lot longer to load on the iPod touch (both devices were on the same WiFi network although the Pocket PC was limited to 802.11b vs. the 802.11g for the iPod touch), the iPhone version sure looks a lot nicer and provides a lot of functionality without scrolling up and down.

Microsoft has a lot of work to do to bring the Windows Mobile Internet Explorer browser into the 21st century. The iPhone has clearly inspired a lot of firms and their web designers to maximize web-impact for the iPhone’s Safari browser in a way that we have not seen previously for other web-enabled mobile devices.

Microsoft’s announcements of more enterprise mobile-enabling products for 2008 is good for the enterprise. But, again, that is clearly not where most of us are these days even if we work for a large organization. Microsoft really needs to focus on the basics and fix the broken stories at that level: Internet Explorer, ActiveSync and Windows Mobile Device Center, and alarms are just a few of the basics that need fixing.

Issues With Recurring Meetings in Windows Mobile
Microsoft’s Jason Langridge wrote an interesting blog item related to recurring meetings earlier this week…

Having Problems With a Calendar With Lots of Recurring Meetings?

The problem, it turns out, occurs because Microsoft creates recurring meetings out to 400 years if no end date is set. Um, who was the big brain who decided on that I wonder? I suspect many of us set recurring events that go on forever even if we don’t expect to live for another 400 years. And, I wonder if birthdays and anniversaries are set using the same recurrence algorithm? That might explain some of the bizarre behavior there. Many WiMo users have seen birthday events multiply inexplicably. Some have even seen birthdates split across two days after Microsoft issued a patch to deal with the fact that Daylight Savings’ start and end dates were changed in the US this year. And, then, there is the problem of changing just a single occurrence of a recurring event that I’ve described earlier…

Here’s the scenario for that problem: Set a recurring appointment (e.g., weekly staff meeting) with no end date in Outlook on the PC. Sync the PC with a WiMo device. Detach the WiMo device from the PC. Change just one of the meetings in the series on the WiMo device while leaving the other recurring events in place. Sync the WiMo device with the PC. When I do this, the single event changed on my WiMo device reverts back to the original date/time after syncing with the PC. It does not happen 100% of the time. But, I would say it happens at least 50% of the time for me.

Google Gmail IMAP4 Works Fine with Windows Mobile
My Google Gmail IMAP4 feature was turned on earlier today (Oct. 25, Thursday). The first thing I did was test it with a T-Mobile Dash (Smartphone AKA Standard Edition) running Windows Mobile 6. And, yep, WiMo’s Messaging (email) works fine with the new Gmail feature.

Google provides step-by-step instructions to configure Windows Mobile 6 to work with Gmail and IMAP4.

Google Mail Help IMAP Windows Mobile 6

However, experienced WiMo users may find the less eye-glazing generic help page faster to go through.

Google Mail Help IMAP Configuring Other Mail Clients

Google’s IMAP service seems a lot slower than service on other IMAP servers I use. However, it may simply be because of all the new clients being configured and downloading email. I’m hoping this will clear up (speed up) within a couple of days or weeks.

Addendum: Hey, I just noticed my Gmail storage is up to 4.3GB. When did that happen?

Concerned About Asustek Eee PC Math
Asustek Eee PC press release
The October 18 Asustek press release title for the eagerly anticipated (at least by me) ultra compact Eee PC reads…

An Eee PC Sold Every 2 Seconds

However, the text of the release says…

…with 200 pieces snapped up in 20 mins on Taiwan’s shopping channel, ETTV Shopping - averaging an Eee PC sold every 2 seconds!

Um, hmm, so 200 / 20 = 10 per minute = an Eee PC sold every 6 seconds. Still impressive but off by 3x. Not very good math. Hope it wasn’t calculated on an Eee PC :-)

Addendum: Here’s a link to CNET UK’s Asus EeePC 701 Full Review.