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Looking Back at CES 2009: Windows Mobile

The 2009 Consumer Electronics Show seemed to be dominated by Palm's announcement of the Pre but quietly in a back conference room it appears that Microsoft was unveiling it's road map to next week's Mobile World Congress. Smartphonethoughts.com has posted a 20 minute video of a presentation made by Greg Sullivan, Microsoft's Senior Production Manager for Windows Mobile, during the 2009 CES.

In his presentation Sullivan notes that two million Windows Mobile phones in 2008 but what's more interesting is the concept he outlines where Microsoft treats the phone, web and computer as one platform. Where Microsoft is working towards a seamless connection between the three that exposes all the hardware capabilities a Windows phone has. He never refers to it as My Phone but the concept is very similar. Sullivan stresses the desire to link the physical world with the internet several times through out his twenty minute presentation.  You can also get a taste of applications such as Netflix and Microsoft Tag.

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Verizon may finally get Touch Diamond

Might Verizon finally be getting the HTC Touch Diamond? Engadget Mobile thinks so. They've got a spy who says the Diamond will see the the light of the big V for the first time "in early to mid-March."

How late to the party are they? By comparison, Sprint supposedly will end-of-life its Touch Diamond in July.

In other VZW news, Engadget's tipster also points to a new phone "unlike anything anyone has seen before." What that is, we've got no idea. Also, the Samsung Omnia may be reduced to $99 with contract in mid-March.

But, really, with all the new HTC goodness we know is in the works, are you really going to be excited about snagging a Diamond just now?

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PointUI Home 2 released

Chances are if you've been using Windows Mobile for more than a week, you're ever searching for a better user interface. Options like SPB Mobile Shell and SBH's iLauncher are excellent but leave a small hole in your wallet. That left a pretty big door for PointUI to saunter through, and for the most part it impress us when we did a full review a year ago.

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Gigabyte's GSmart S1200 Teaser

 

While details are still sketchy, Gigabyte has announced plans to introduce three new Windows Mobile phones next week at  Mobile World Congress, one of which is expected to be the GSmart S1200. The Taiwan-based company didn't offer much with regards to device specifications, but Engadget Mobile is reporting that the S1200 will be running Windows Mobile 6.1, be .43 inches thin, and have a 528MHz Qualcomm 7200A processor running the show. Gigabyte isn't new to the mobile phone business, offering a wide range of Windows Mobile phones outside the United States.

Gigabyte also made reference to a new business offering, only saying that it'll be "something very different to what they have before." One has to wonder if the "something different" includes bringing the company's Windows Mobile phones to the U.S. market.

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Inside the Verizon Wireless national test lab

You read a lot from us and other blogs about carrier testing – that's when AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and the like put a phone through its paces to make sure the thing will work on its network and not give you a third-eye or something. Most of the time we're griping about how long testing takes, or about what features will be stripped out of a phone. This is far from unimportant stuff, but we've always wondered exactly what goes on in there.

Pocketnow.com has the answer, having been given a tour of Verizon's national phone test lab in Bedminster, N.J. And Verizon is known for having some of the toughest testing out there. Hit up the video for an inside look at what goes on before a phone gets anywhere near your melon.

Verizon Wireless National Test Lab Tour

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This i-mate phone can beat up your phone

Here's a Windows Mobile phone that's supposed to be able to take anything you can throw at it. Go ahead. You know those rivets are daring you. You wuss.

The i-mate 810-F is built with "military-grade credentials." You are worthless and weak. There's your basic Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional touchscreen phone with an impact-resistant screen. Yeah, like an impact with a fist. It's waterproof, can handle pressure, humidity and shock. You're still scared of clowns. It'll also keep ticking from minus-10 degrees Celsius (that's 14 Fahrenheit) to 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit). For those weekend trips to do battle in Hell.

You'll also get HSDPA, 2 gigs of onboard stoarge, GPS, WiFi, a digital compass, Bluetooth and an accelerometer. It never asks for directions - directions will come to *it.* There's also a system called Secure i-q that lets you remotely lock your device wipe your data or sound the alarm should it be lost, stolen. Or just gets tired of having to deal with your pansy self.  It also reportedly will have a lifetime warantee. Yeah, like you'll ever have to use it.

We'll learn more about this bad mamma jamma at Mobile World Congress next week.

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Fennec 'Milestone Release' is ... released!

Ask and ye shall receive. No sooner do we get another very cool look at what Fennec – Mozilla's Firefox Mobile browser – can do, the team releases the first "Milestone Release" for the HTC Touch Pro.

A word of warning: This is a "Milestone Release" and is not the finished product. As Mozilla's Brad Lassey explains:

Our focus to this point has been to have a working, usable browser. To get there in a hurry we have punted in a few places, and I’d like to point a couple of them out. First is the update mechanism (both for the browser itself and for extensions). After installing this release, you will not be offered updates automatically, so please stay tuned for follow up releases. Also, we have disabled plug-in support. This is one of our high priority items going forward. Finally, as I mentioned before, there is no soft keyboard support. On an HTC Touch Pro, you’ll have to slide out the keyboard to enter a url.

Lassey also takes on the recent "leaked" versions of Fennec that were floating around. (See our own "There's a Mad Fennec on the Loose")

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HTC Cedar cropping up everywhere

A few weeks we reported on HTC's leaked lineup that included more devices than you could shake a stick at. And one of the devices listed on HTC's lineup has been making a few appearances. The phone codenamed "Cedar" is a front-facing QWERTY keyboard device that by all indications will be a Windows Mobile Standard phone. 

Engadget Mobile is reporting that the Cedar has appeared on Bluetooth.org's certification list. While there is no mention of an official release date, we've also learned from the Boy Genius Report that the Cedar is rumored to hit Sprint's lineup sometime June.  Strong indications are that the Cedar might be the Motorola Q9c's successor on Sprint.

These sightings might be a sign we'll see it at this month's Mobile World Congress and definitely lend credibility to HTC's leaked lineup. Maybe we'll start spotting the Tungsten, Whitestone, and Thoth as well.

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We're still waiting for an official beta of Mozilla's Fennec mobile browser, and it now looks like it's targeted for later this month. [via] (Update: The Milestone Release is out now.) But in the meantime, here's some more to whet your appetite. One of the cooler features of Fennec is its ability to support add-ons, just like it's big brother desktop browser. Above we have a video from felipc, who's doing some very cool work with gesture inputs for the browser.

Obviously, this is a demonstration performed on a Mac, but you can imagine how powerful this could be on a mobile phone. We see demonstrated:

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Tip of the Week: Save your stylus

Ah, the great stylus debate. Even with the advent of the more finger-friendly TouchFlo 3D, some people just can't put down the stylus. And that's OK. Different strokes and all that. And with the Touch Diamond family of devices (including the Touch Pro and Touch HD), there came the added bonus of the phone recognizing when you remove the stylus and then waking or launching a program.

And if you're they type that's constantly losing your stylus, here's a little app that can help remind you to put it back after you've used it. Brought to you by the fine folks at XDA Developers, it monitors whether your stylus is in or out. If it's out and your phone starts moving, it can alert you. Pretty simple stuff, but it could save you a little stylus headache.

Find the app and more information on it here.

Via PocketNow

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Sprint Treo Pro - March 15 next target to miss


We knew that Sprint had delayed the release of the Treo Pro until the end of February, but we are now learning that the delay will last a little longer. The Boy Genius Report now says Sprint has now targeted March 15 for the release of the Treo Pro. There's still no indication what is causing these delays and this is a "target" date. Strong rumors have it that the Treo Pro isn't doing so well on Sprint's exit exam, in all likelihood because of that other new Palm device waiting in the wings.

So while you're waiting for March 15 to come (and possibly go), don't forget that in the meantime, we've got your one and only hands-on with the Sprint Treo Pro.

(And thanks, David, for the earlier tip + Anonymous tipster for the Spint Flyer we mashed up above)

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Google Puts a Library in your Pocket

In a move that would make the Dewey Decimal System proud, Google has digitized 1.5 million public domain titles in a small screen format. If you're in the mood to do some reading, just point Opera Mobile 9.5 or Skyfire to http://books.google.com/m and you'll have access to titles such as "Treasure Island," "At the Back of the North Wind," and "My Life at Work." Pocket IE warns that "Some content cannot be displayed due to Pocket PC security settings" then returns a blank page.  Just what security setting needs changing in order to make it work are, sadly, still a mystery to us.

Admittedly, it may not be the most stunning literary lineup but with 1.5 million titles to choose from, everyone should find something of interest. In trying Google Books I learned that I had to increase my browser's cache to download the books and you can't read the books without a connection. Loose the data connection and you loose the book. If you've been curious about eBooks or just have some time to kill and you're tired of playing Bejeweled, Google Books is worth a look.

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It has been easy to miss because the pieces of this puzzle are spread out across several years of news, but the headline you're reading on this piece has it exactly right: Microsoft is poised to take a serious chunk out of RIM's virtual stranglehold on Enterprise and Corporate mobile email.

The latest news is that Google has gone ahead an licensed Exchange Activesync (EAS) for their Contacts and Calendar services.. While they are not offering it for email (yet?), it does represent a pretty significant moment in the battle for standards in how data gets pushed and synced out to devices. For Google, it means that although they appear to be continuing to support open standards like SyncML and they have their own custom solution for Android, they have given up trying to get those open standards adopted across the industry. Apple made the same decision when they offered Exchange support for the iPhone.

When it comes to mobile devices, EAS is becoming the de facto standard for all smartphones not labeled "BlackBerry." To find out why this matters, read on!

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If you've been toiling at trying to find a way to sync up your Google Contacts and Calendars with your Windows Mobile phone -- switching between Nuevasync and Goosync and, well, whatever other kind of sync you've tried, take heart.  Google just announced on their blog that WM finally gets some parity with BlackBerry on this front with the Beta release of Google Sync for Windows Mobile.

This is a good news / bad news sort of thing. If you're not already using Exchange to sync -- this is good news, because Google is basically mimicking an Exchange interface for you. If you *are* using Exchange to sync to your corporate email, well, see above for other options.

First they give us Latitude, now they give us Sync ...it's nice to see Google caring about platforms not named "Android."  Now if they'd work with Microsoft on getting their email pushed out more easily, the Gmail users amongst us will finally feel complete.

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Preview movies in the Netflix Mobile app

Here's a little gem that mostly slipped past the first run-through of the Netflix Mobile application (though one of our our eagle-eyed commenters spotted it - thanks, joeg!): Some movies in Netflix's library offer a trailer preview directly through the app onto your phone.

It's a little hit and miss as to which movies have the preview, so you'll just have to hunt around. But it's a nice feature in what is a very well-put together Windows Mobile application. If you haven't already, go get it here.

My Philly Network (via Engadget Mobile)

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Another Live Search Mobile update released

Our man Malatesta has spied an update to Windows Live Search Mobile. We're all sitting here in the WME mothership in our anti-gravity chairs (what, your office doesn't have them?) working with the new build, but for the life of us we can't figure out what's been updated. Microsoft also has been mum so far on the new version, which now stands at 4.1.2029.1, up from 4.0.12158.1. Could just be bug fixes, but jumping from 4.0 to 4.1 could mean more.

So we put it to you, dear readers. First one to leave a significant finding in the comments will live on forever in WME immortality.

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HTC To Rock the Snapdragon in 2009, too

While there have been rumblings that HTC and Qualcomm aren't quite the BFFs they used to be, Digitimes is reporting [via] that HTC is going to stick with the chipmaker at least long enough to push out a device sporting the snappy Snapdragon processor. The Snapdragon, as you may recall, is probably the most exciting thing about that Toshiba TG01 -- because as we said yesterday during the podcast, the custom interface leaves much to be desired. Also, that TG01 may not even make it to the states anyway.

Back to HTC, the device is apparently set for the 2nd quarter of 2009, which means it's anybody's guess as to whether or not they'll deign to show it off at MWC09. Also anybody's guess, which device in the massive HTC 2009 line-up leak we're looking at here. We figure it could actually be more than one, but a proc like the Snapdragon would be a good fit for a media-centric device like the above-pictured Whitestone W

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Around SPE for 9 February, 2009

After the completion of the hectic Smartphone Round Robin, your faithful bloggers at Smartphone Experts decided to keep things moving along at a heady clip. In the past week we have published somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 stories, from accessory and software reviews to news to the latest rumors. That's a lot to keep track of, so we're bringing back our regular "Around SPE" feature to give you a quick summary of what you may have missed in a format that's more helpful than just a list of links.

In that vein, our biggest recent news is that our newest sister site, Nokia Experts is starting strong with a launch contest. If you would like to earn some chances at winning a Nokia E71 or Nokia N85, make sure to enter the contest each week. There are two weeks left to go, so check back as each week we're changing up how you can enter to win!

There's plenty more smartphone news you may have missed, so read on!

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Just a little while ago we mentioned how WM6.5 (early, pre-release) was being ported over for CDMA phones and that we can expect a newer, updated WM6.5 ROM to be coming out. Well that day is here.

Once again, Conflipper at ppcgeeks has manged to not only get his hands on but post some screen shots of what's new.

The now infamous "honeycomb" launcher is there, but not running smoothly, which tells us that some hardware graphics accelartion may be needed.  We also see that Windows Media Player gets a healthy and welcomed makeover, resulting in a much more thumb friendly UI.

Perhaps the biggest news though is the inclusion of MyPhone, Marketplace (something we were expecting) and also the unheard of (until now) "Outlook Live" application.  Glancing over the screenshot, it appears that this new service will allow you to sync multiple e-mail accounts.  For those who remember, MS had launched an "Outlook Live" service back in 2005 as a way to sync up your hotmail and Outlook account information into one single area, unifying the services.  Then the test program was seemingly canceled, with promises of a return to something in the future.  Perhaps that day is now approaching with a re-vamped version in WM6.5?

Also, cryptically someting referred to as "WMwidgets" was also found, though we're not what that exactly is yet.

We'll post more info as it comes about, until then take a look at some more WM6.5 screenies after the jump.

Thanks Conflipper!

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Microsoft Comes Clean on My Phone -- More Deets at MWC

After the pre-emptive "unveiling" of the My Phone Dashwire-alike syncing service yesterday, Microsoft has gone ahead and copped to the entire thing in a statement:

Today, Microsoft’s My Phone Web site went live prior to its scheduled debut. However, we are excited about the new Microsoft My Phone service, which will be available as a limited, invite-only beta. This is a significant milestone for Microsoft as it connects the phone to the PC and Web, making mobility a key pillar for the company’s software+services strategy.

This new Microsoft cloud service syncs critical information (e.g., contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, text messages, photos, video, etc) on a user’s mobile phone to  a password protected Web site.  Once synchronized, people can easily back-up and restore mobile phone data.  My Phone provides an easy to use Web portal where people can access and manage content on the phone, and share that information with others.

My Phone helps people:

  • Keep their information backed up if they lose or break their phones.

  • Transition information if they switch to new phones.

  • Access the same information from their phone or PC.

  • Additional  information about the service can be found here:  www.windowsmobile.com/myphone

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BlackBerry Application Suite lives on

We've known for a while now that there RIM has been working on the BlackBerry Application Suite for Windows Mobile. We saw a blurry video (since taken down), and a lone pic. It now seems like things have picked up some steam, as BGR reports  beta testing is going on.

The latest:

  • BAS is only running on the HTC Touch Pro/Fuze and the TyTn. GSM only, folks.
  • Internal GPS is a go, so BlackBerry Maps and other location-based services should work.
  • PIN-to-PIN messaging and BlackBerry messaging work.

This won't turn your Windows Mobile phone into a BlackBerry. Phone calls are still handled on the WinMo side. Same goes for Bluetooth and external GPS. Pictures still go to the default "My Pictures" folder. (Hey, that's a niggle for us, too.) Music is still janky, and MMS and SMS don't play well together from BAS to the WinMo side.

Obviously these early leaks are a long way from an actual hands-on. But for the moment, it sounds like BAS isn't going to replace the full-on BlackBerry experience anytime soon.

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We've struggled in the past to figure out the logic behind Microsoft's naming conventions. And about a year a go we thought things were going to get better.

More recently, we learned of the upcoming cloud services – Skybox, Skyline and Skymarket. See the pattern?

But an Engadget tipster may have thrown a bit of a wrench into that small sliver of sanity. Getskybox.com has made an appearance, though you can't actually sign up yet. (And you may be met by a certificate error. Just plow through that.) And there the service gets a new name: Microsoft My Phone. Run file facepalm.exe now.

You can, however, go to the "More info" page, where we learn the following:

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From 'Windows Mobile' to 'Windows phone'

Yeah, you read that right, and you'll likely see more headlines (See exhibits A, B, C and D) about losing the "Mobile" name. But before we all start freaking out, this is something we have recently discussed:

We all heard Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in his CES keynote refer to "Windows phones." (Read our liveblog here.) And that spurred the following in a reponse to one of our readers about viruses and Windows Mobile. Quoting, well, ourselves:

Given that Microsoft decided to call their mobile Operating System Windows Mobile and given that more recently they seem to want to refer to their stuff as "Windows Phones" (As Steve Ballmer did in the CES keynote), it's not mere paranoia to wonder about these types of issues, but a legitimate confusion about just what Windows Mobile is and how it relates to Windows now and in the future.

So what should we expect? Digitimes (that's Exhibit A, above) has a source claiming that "going forward, Windows Mobile-based handsets will be promoted simply as Windows phones without specifying an OS version number." 

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