(Join us this week as George reviews 4 Weather Apps for Windows Mobile Standard and then gives them all a big smackdown on Friday. Today's entrant: Elecont Weather)

Weather applications are increasing in popularity and Paragon Software Group has tossed Handy Weather ($17.95) into the growing selection of applications.  I’ve reviewed several weather applications lately and find them very useful to help plan your day on the go as well as planning for the days ahead.  There are a lot of good weather applications available and I was curious how Handy Weather would stack up.

Read on to see how it shapes up!

Installation was straightforward and easy but set up threw me a major curve ball.  Handy Weather claims to have over 40,000 preset cities in its database.  You first select you country, then State/Province/etc., then city.  I selected United States which prompted a listing of States.  I saw Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, and then it went on to California.  Alabama was missing!  I could pull up weather information for every State in the Union but Alabama.  I could pull up cities from the Federated States of Micronesia but not Alabama.  I could see the current conditions for Yap but not Birmingham!

Seeing that I couldn’t use any city in my home State, I choose Destin, Florida.  If I couldn’t be in Birmingham, I might as well be on the beach.

Handy Weather is a weather application and Home Screen Plug-in.  The application will place a weather forecast bar on your Home Screen that will show you the current conditions and the next four day forecast.  A series of weather icons are used and the temperature is displayed.

Clicking on the banner will send you to the application itself.  The main screen of Handy Weather is a seven day forecast and by clicking on the individual date, you pull up forecasted conditions including forecasted weather plus projected temperature, wind speed and direction, UV index, and humidity.

The application also includes three forecast maps; satellite, surface and temperature.  The maps are graphically pleasing but lacked detailed information.  Only eleven North American cities are shown on the Current Temperature Map, fourteen on the Satellite Map, and none are indicated on the Surface Analysis Map.  It would have been nice to have seen the selected Cities shown.

Handy Weather does not have animated maps, radar images or notifications of severe weather alerts.  It will allow you to see a graph of forecasted temperatures and conditions over a five day period.

The Options Menu for Handy Weather is limited.  You can change the language, units of measurement and update frequency.  Not much more.  I would have preferred to see the ability to modify the information bar content (current conditions or three day forecast as opposed to just the seven day) as well as graphical appearances.

Overall Impression

On the surface, I liked Handy Weather($17.95).  It gave you a snapshot of the seven day forecast along with a little more detailed information if you needed it.  Compared to other weather applications, Handy Weather would be a basic model giving you just enough information on the weather but not too much.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a work in progress.

Because Handy Weather does not include a single city in Alabama, it doesn’t do me or anyone traveling to Alabama any good.  In contacting Paragon Software, the omission of Alabama was an oversight on their part and steps are being taken to include Alabama in future releases, the first expected at the end of the month.

Based on the limited options, the oversight of including any city in Alabama, and basic features I’m almost of the impression that Paragon Software slapped this application together hastily in order to get a weather application on the market.

How do you forget a State?  When developers saw 49 States listed under the United States of America, shouldn’t that have been a sign?

Ratings (out of 5)

  • Installation: 4/5
  • Functionality: 3/5 (where’s Alabama?)
  • Graphics: 4/5 (more detail on maps)
  • Ease of Use: 4/5 (navigation is easy)



  • Easy to navigate through


  • City Database missing an entire State
  • Lack of Detail in Maps
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Ah...and here I thought I was going to get by this week without posting any Treo 800w info.

Guess not what with a certain something on the down-low wrapping up this week. So good morning to everyone as we have a slathering of rumortastic info for you, including two more traditional blurry shots (see above and below) of the very long awaited Treo 700wx successor, the 800w.

(Fret not Verizon fans...read our earlier post on the Verizon 800w, if you're jonesing)

Keep reading for price, specs and a ton of other info info after the jump...

First up: we're hearing that the 800w will finally drop on Sprint on Sunday, July 13th. That puts it ahead by 9 days our date of July 22nd--curse you Sprint! Well, it still remains to be seen what the final release day will be, but we're getting close. (What, YOU know the date? Well throw her up in our contest thread already! And yes, July 13th is now also off limits for future guessing. So complicated)

The price is $249.99 (of course with "instant savings" and a mail-in-rebate)--if true, that's actually a very sweet price and should enable the 800w to go up RIM quite nicely.

What else can we dig up?

How about the battery is now confirmed at being a not-too-shabby (but hardly hulked out) 1150mah. If that sounds familiar it is because the Palm Centro uses that same size battery and in fact is the exact same battery. Yikes. So similar we are hearing that new Centros have a battery that even says "STD battery for 690/800w". That sure seems convenient for someone.

Oh and those new leaked pictures above? That is still a tester unit (see the blurred out serial). We're still expecting a few more shiny additions to the finalized version, so while the Black Charcoal which we 1st reported is accurate, expect a wee bit more pizazz in a few more weeks ;-)

And last but not least, if you need a re-count of what we know for device specs, here ya go:

  • MSM-6800 chipset
  • ~100mb of Program / ~170mb of Storage Memory (both after OS)
  • WM 6.1 (5.2.1944)
  • ARM1136 processor
  • WiFi
  • Soft touch paint
  • Dedicated Wifi button + Ringer switch on top
  • Micro-USB connector
  • 2.1mp camera
  • No headphone jack (uses microUSB to 3.5mm adapter)
  • 1150mah battery

Plus the usual:

  • 320x320
  • RevA (on release?)
  • GPS (network independent)
  • Palm Threaded SMS

So whaddya think? Palm has a winner or a snoozer here? Sound off!

Thanks to BigChris for the heads up!

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Weekly Software Wrangle - Week 2

Time to open the stables, saddle up, and start wrangling this week's software. This week we'll rope in some new and updated software for WM Standard and Professional, as well as take a peek at some freeware.

This week we're looking at new software for WM Standard, including GPSed and Genius Converter. Updated software includes Elecont Smartphone Manager and PDA Tuner PRO Live Online Radio and TV. Featured freeware includes Ilium Software Screen Capture and SplashNews for Smartphone.

Over on the WM Professional side, new software this week includes Pocket Workout Wizard v3.2 and Skybox. Updated software includes HiCalc - Your Trusted Calculator and Pocket DB for WM6 Professional. The freebies include IRCy Dictionary and Scatto.

Without further ado, let's start riding over to this week's Wrangle!

WM Standard: New

First up is GPSed: Track and Map Your Trips - beta v1.0 by SHAPE Services. Right out of the chute, you'll notice that this beta is FREE to download and use with the tag line "Mapping Your Impressions."

GPSed is a location-based service for trip tracking from Windows Mobile Smartphones. In real time tracks are traced on Google maps and stored in an online archive. With a simple geotagging feature it is possible to pin photos to a map precisely at a place they where taken.

Record tracks of your trips anywhere on the Earth from a PDA. Tracks are traced on Google Maps and stored in an online archive. All you need to start tracking is a WM PDA with an internal or external GPS receiver. In areas without network coverage it is still possible to record tracks by your Smartphone. These tracks can be imported to GPSed online service when you are in the area with good network coverage. Positioning data can be transferred online via GSM, EDGE, 3G or WiFi networks.

Pin your photos to a map with one-click geotagging feature. Take photos while traveling and link them to a map precisely at a place they were taken. The geotagged photos will be stored on your computer for easy and private access. See your geotagged photos in one click on Google Earth. You can get free desktop service GPSed Photo Take'n'Pin on GPSed web site. Then, share your position coordinates and tracks with friends and family. Just select "Email to Friend" and your friends will receive a link to your public tracks. Let your friends see your instant position on a map when you are recording tracks with GPSed.

Features: - Send your position coordinates to your friend via e-mail or SMS. - Make your tracks Public/Private. - Waypoints with geotagged notes. Stop at a point of interest and record a memo. - Detailed track information. - Tracks auto-zoom. - Search among your tracks and public tracks of other users. - GPSed is fully compatible with WM Smartphones equipped with the internal GPS receivers. GPSed is also compatible with mobiles that can connect to the external GPS receiver via Bluetooth and with any GPS receivers (like Garmin GPS, TomTom GPS and others) that can record tracks in GPX, PLT, KML and other formats.

Get GPSed beta for FREE here.

Next up is GeniusConverter v1.0 by Total Wireless Solutions. This is a very inexpensive and handy unit conversion program that you can carry around on your Smartphone.

GeniusConverter is an advanced unit converter containing over 360 units in 31 categories that will take care of all your unit conversion needs be it complex scientific conversions related to Radio Activity, Thermal Conductivity, .... or practical daily conversions like Fuel Usage, Temperature, ....

With GeniusConverter on your smartphone you no longer need to remember those complex conversion factors and formulas. A must have utility for everyone who is related with units and measurements.

Features: - 31 Different categories comprising a total of 360 Units. - SWAP option available for swapping 'From' & 'To' units. - ROUND option available for rounding-off the results. - High degree of Accuracy & Reliable conversions. - Easy to use and friendly User interface.

Get GeniusConverter v1.0 for only $5.00 here.

WM Standard: Updated

Elecont Smartphone Manager v1.0.145 by Elecont starts off our Updated WM Standard apps this week.

Elecont Task Manager is the easiest way to manage running programs on Pocket PC or Smartphone. It is similar to Windows taskbar. Activate or close any program with your finger or joystick in two clicks. Explore memory usage for each program and close the most expensive program before you start a new one.

Features: - Windows-like taskbar on Home and Today screen - Memory usage information for each program - Animated effects - Whole memory and battery usage on Home and Today screen - The easiest finger and joystick interface - Activate any program in two clicks - Close any program in two clicks - Close all programs in two clicks - Exclusion list for running programs - Free full-functional 4-day trial version. Free updates.

Get Elecont Smartphone Manager v1.0.145 for $9.99 here.

PDATuner PRO LIVE Online Radio & TV v3.1 by Beta3 is our second featured updated software. How 'bout some music, online radio and TV from around the world in your pocket?

PDAtuner - LIVE Music, Online Radio & TV. Online - updated weekly online - no upgrade costs - NO download required - save on memory - uses your existing Windows Media Player or any of the free mp3 players! - Visit PDAtuner com on your pda/smartphone to see all channels available

Features: - LIVE Music, Online Radio & TV from around the world on your Pocket PC. - Over 1000 US & Canadian streams. - Over 1000 international (Non US) streams. - Channels categorised by Country, State... - Channels grouped by genres - 60s70s,.. Contemporary, CHR, Christian, Classical....News, Sport - over 30 genres. - Windows Media and mp3 formats listed giving you the widest channel selection. - NO download required - save on memory. - ALWAYS up-to-date - NO future upgrade / version costs. - Simple - Buy, get Registration key and visit PDAtuner.com to register on first visit - login is only required on first visit. - Reliable - we check every channel weekly. - Favourites - add and remove with one click - stored online so you can access PDAtuner on any device/computer. - Clean fast interface designed by a usability expert.

Get PDATuner PRO LIVE Online Radio & TV v3.1 for $11.90 here.

WM Standard: Freeware

Ilium Software Screen Capture - Free for Smartphones v1.1 by Ilium Software is a free, fast, and easy to use screen capturing program for your Smartphone. Download a copy today and you'll be able to take screenshots quickly, whenever you need to!

Using Ilium Software Screen Capture takes just six simple steps:

  1. Start the program on your device
  2. Use the Options menu to define the key you want to press to take your screenshots
  3. Leave the program open - do not hit the Exit button yet
  4. Take your screenshots! (If you have sound on, you will hear a camera "click" noise when the screen is captured)
  5. To stop the program, open it again and hit the Exit button
  6. Find your screen captures in your My Documents folder on your device

With Ilium Software Screen Capture, it's fast and easy to get any screenshots you need from your device. Download it today and you'll be ready to take screenshots on your Smartphone anytime!

Features: - Ilium Software Screen Capture lists several keys that you can choose from to take your screenshots. - These keys correspond to different buttons on your Smartphone. You can use the pound sign (#), asterisk (*), or one of the numbers on your keypad. - Whenever you press the button you've defined, a screenshot will be taken and saved to your My Documents folder, until you stop the program as described above. - Please note: Because Ilium Software Screen Capture is a free utility, we will be unable to provide phone and email support for it. However, the complete instructions are listed above, and following those steps is all that is required to run the program properly.

Get Ilium Software Screen Capture for FREE right here.

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Here we have another WMExperts editorial that starts relatively small and ends up turning into a big ol' discussion of what a smartphone is and what it should be. Today's question: how does your identity define your smartphone and, more importantly, how does your smartphone define your identity? Here we go!

Darla Mack asks the following question: (trackback here)

Men think that women want pink phones and cute phone charms and such. Women think that men want to have the “biggest, first, most expensive, etc. etc.”. But does anyone really know?
In my mobile journeys I've found that women do in fact want the same as men.

I'm inclined to agree -- the idea that you can slap a pink cover on a gadget and call it “female-friendly” is more than a little silly. It might be slightly less silly to argue that a given operating system's interface is “gendered,” though. I'm far from an expert on questions of gender and find the whole thing somewhat difficult to talk about (more on that in a moment).

It's more than just gender, though, there's a whole swath of people worldwide that don't seem to be getting properly addressed by the way smartphones get marketed these days. Can Microsoft (et al) find a way to direct their development and their marketing to address the needs and desires of different demographics without pandering or stereotyping?

I don't know, but I have a few thoughts. Read on!

Are Smartphones Gendered?

The default assumption, I'm guessing, is that Windows Mobile is too analytical/left brained overall and therefore oriented towards the typically male way of thinking about the world. All those regimented menus, submenus, lines, squares, checkboxes... it all seems to read decided “male.”

The numbers bear that reading out, as we reported last November:

According to a recent research by Microsoft, only 14.6% of the Windows Mobile users are women, compared with 85.4% of men.

I doubt that the divide is as stark as that for all smartphones, but at the recent BlackBerry WES 2008 conference I heard the same refrain from the few women I spoke with: “I wish there were more women here and in this industry.” There's definitely a problem here: Smartphones seem to be designed by men and for men.

I mentioned that talking about different demographics and the needs of those demographics is a little difficult to talk about. Here's why: While it's clear that smartphones are primarily designed by men and (for now, anyway) primarily used by men, it's much less clear that smartphones are “gendered.”

I have argued before that while Windows Mobile is not intuitive in a basic “I just get it / lizard brain” sense, it can be intuitive in a “Now I understand the metaphors for how this works” sense. Just as a manual transmission car isn't intuitive at all, it can still become “intuitive” to a frequent user (or, in smartphone parlance, a “power user”).

Take the earlier list of the things that are purportedly 'male' about the Windows Mobile interface. Are all those lines and checkboxes and questions of memory management and registry edits more intuitive to a male brain than to a female? Many would probably argue yes. I think that I would argue it's much more complicated.

I also think that Mack might agree, she writes:

We may take a back seat to being a mobile front runner when it comes to dropping bucks but that doesn't mean that we aren't technologically equipped to know a powerful device when we see it.

The line between “how a male brain works” and “how a female brain works” is movable, fluid, and fuzzy at best. Is “left brained” as “typically male” as we think it is? Frankly, no. The inverse also applies.

Since I'm no longer the academic I once was (and wasn't much of one even then), I can't name off the various studies about gendered interfaces, but they exist and they're a hell of a lot more nuanced than what you're reading here. Trust me - start digging into the concept of the “Cyborg” and you'll find enough material to set yourself up with complex and interesting reading for life.

So with Windows Mobile, while there seems to be evidence for it being 'gendered' based on who's making it and who's using it, trying to actually pin down the 'gendered elements' of the OS with any kind of accuracy and without blatant stereotyping is a task that's pretty much impossible to tackle.

Instead I think Microsoft ought to try to just make the interface more “lizard brain intuitive” than it is now -- more automatic transmission than manual transmission. As they do it, though, they ought to at least be aware of what their concept of “lizard brain” intuition is -- that concept needs to be much, much larger than upper-middle-class-white-male-executive-with-money-to-burn.

A Global Understanding of Who a Smartphone User is and Can Be

Saying that the target market is “upper-middle-class-white-male-executive-with-money-to-burn” may sound harsh, but the data bears it out. Gartner just released a study last month saying as much:

Sixty-eight percent of the world’s population is women and children who could benefit much from mobile technology, but the majority of mobile devices are designed by men, for men, according to Gartner, Inc. The user profile to which most mobile products are targeted is a western adult male (age 20 to 64), but this represents just 32 percent of the global population.

As I attended SOFCON 2008: The Mobile Future Conference last month, I heard the same thing over and over again: the internet is going mobile and phones are becoming more important than computers.

As people described this issue it became clear it was more than just a catchy marketing phrase (though, yes, it was that too): in the very very near future more people will be accessing the internet on cell phones than do on computers. Accessing it for the first time and nearly every time via a cell phone. The cell phone is literally going to be how the vast people understand and interact with the internet.

People might get excited by the One Laptop Per Child project, but that's nothing compared to the cellphone.

A cell phone is power, it is in an increasingly real sense a cornerstone of modern identity. Who I am is as much my phone number and email address as it is my name and physical address. Imagine having a very close friend of yours who doesn't have an email address, or a voicemail box, or -- yes -- a telephone. Barring snail mail, there would be no way to communicate with this person unless you were in person. This disconnected person would seem like a ghost, adrift in a world of connected nodes of communication, a neuron without a synapse. Where would he or she speak from or be spoken to except their physical place? Nowhere -- and as physical place becomes less important being disconnected make you more ghostlike.

This still describes the majority of people on the planet, but that's changing and changing rapidly. What companies like Microsoft and Nokia and RIM and Apple and Palm should be thinking about is much much more important than who has the most market share in North America:

  • What does it mean to make a smartphone that is a person's sole means of interacting with the larger world?
  • What does the internet look like when seen only through the screen on a smartphone?
  • What kind of smartphone do you need to make when it's the only means of communication for an entire family? An entire village?

...and most importantly:

What does it mean not only to supply somebody with a smartphone, but to supply them with an identity?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but they are the real stakes of the smartphone market. If you're in the business of providing tools that give people a “21st Century Identity,” you better be damn sure that it's not limited by a gendered way of thinking, a “western” way of thinking, or whatever superstructure you want. You had better do your best to design it to free people's minds instead of limit them.

In a couple hundred years I'm confident that the smartphone will be considered just as important as the PC as or as the Internet in terms of how it changed the world. It will be the primary 'PC experience' and the primary 'internet experience' for the vast majority of the planet. It's a revolution of technology and of identity. I know that people who work on creating smartphones are beginning to think of them this way, we as users should do the same.

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Weekly Software Wrangle - Week 1

Like our sister sites, we thought it was high time to deliver to you a Weekly Software Wrangle, where we herd and rope in some of the new and updated software for WM Standard and Professional.

This week we're looking at new software for WM Standard, including PhoneyCall, Fizz Alarms, and WM Tip Calculator. Updated software includes Extreme Agenda, AE Button Plus, and CorePlayer Mobile for Smartphone.

Over on the WM Professional side, new software this week includes Lexisgoo English Dictionary, In The Bag Shopping List, and Ringtones Deluxe +250 Volume 4. Updated software includes Softick Card Export, Master Kick and Zoomboard.

So saddle up, partners, and ready your lassos! Be sure to holler "YEEEHAWW!" as you stampede over to this week's Wrangle!

WM Standard: New

First up is PhoneyCall by AIM Productions. This little gem seems diabolical and outrageous on the surface, but the ability to send yourself a fake phone call sounds like a great way to escape a long-winded conversation, for instance.

PhoneyCall comes with pre-recorded communications sounds, or you can create your own. So not only will the fake call ring on your phone, but you can have an interactive chat with the fake caller. For a bystander this sounds even more realistic!

Get PhoneyCall for $19.99 here.

Next up is Fizz Alarms 1.0 for Standard from Fizz Software Ltd. If you want a more robust and feature-rich alarm program for your WM smartphone, then Fizz Alarms may be worth a closer look.

Fizz Alarms is your every day time manager. From repeating alarms, stopwatches to counters. Its your time so take control.

Features: - Comprehensive Alarm Support - Control your alarm recurring options - Control your alarm volume playback - various options - WAV, WMA & MP3 support - Snooze Support - Stopwatch Support - Save your lap times - See your laptimes at a glance - compare the speed bar. - Multiple Counters - Name your counters - Select different sounds for each counter - Snooze time - at end of counter - Digital or analog main clock face - Windows Mobile 6.1 support - all screen sizes - Super Simple Interface - Localised in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch & Russian

Get Fizz Alarms 1.0 for Standard for $14.95 here.

Windows Mobile Tip Calculator v3.0 by Neutronix Corporation rounds out the new WM Standard apps this week.

Calculate your tip amount and split the bill faster and easier than ever before using Windows Mobile Tip Calculator.

Featuring the most powerful bill splitting and itemizing functionality available on the market today, Windows Mobile Tip Calculator allows you to split bills not just by the number of people in your party, but accurately, based on who had what, and how much. Your friends who only had a salad will be happy to know they're only paying for the salad they had, and not part of the two steak & lobster entrees your other guests enjoyed.

The built-in tipping guide provides you with suggestions for common tip amounts on most types of situations and services where tipping is customary or recommended. Whether you're tipping the paper boy, or your server at a fine dining restaurant, you'll know exactly how much to tip, and who owes what using Windows Mobile Tip Calculator.

Get Windows Mobile Tip Calculator v3.0 for $14.95 here.

WM Standard: Updated

Extreme Agenda - Your Organizer v3.26.1 by Birdsoft is our first featured updated software.

Extreme Agenda is the premier Personal Information Manager for your Windows Mobile Smartphone.

It features Powerful Agenda Views, Photo Contacts, Todos, Search, and even Notes and a Secure Wallet in one easy to use package!! And with complete customization and great high-end features found only on other platforms you can't go wrong.

And now we have taken Extreme to the Extreme in new Version 3.0. A Project view, Innovative Spinner Selection screen, timeline week view, and so much more... Free upgrade available if purchased after May 1st. Contact Birdsoft for details..

So if you want to upgrade your Smartphone's built-in Pocket Outlook Applications, there is only one real choice!

..::Take Your Agenda to the Extreme::..

You want more than just pretty icons! We offer more powerful features like Linking, Templates, and Notes, friendly one-handed operation, half the footprint, a smarter price-tag; the list goes on and on.... It justs works more!

Get Extreme Agenda for $21.95 here.

AE Button Plus v2.6.3 by AE Software extends functionality of hardware buttons by allowing you to directly assign built-in action (of more than 40) or remap to "virtual" button single, double, tripple and "long" keypress of almost any hardware button on Windows Mobile devices.

Features: - Intercepts almost any standard button: application buttons, WM5 softkeys, volume slider, red/green phone buttons, Win, Ok... - Distinguish up to 4 different keypress events on each button grabbed (single, double, triple and "long" keypresses) - Remaps each of the keypress event to "virtual" application button or dirrectly assign it to one of the more than 40 built-in actions - Contains built-in task manager, actions menu, clock display and other useful functions - Gather uptime statistics and makes prognosis on battery uptime left

Get AE Button Plus v2.6.3 for $7.99 here.

CorePlayer Mobile for SmartPhone v1.2.4 by CoreCodec, Inc. is at the center of the CoreCodec

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We're live at the CTIA 2008 Keynote, speakers to include Robbie Bach of Microsoft (head of the division that includes Windows Mobile, Hint Hint), Richard Branson of Virgin Mobile (who we just spotted chatting up a small group outside), and Dan Hesse of Sprint. We're assuming hoping that Windows Mobile 6.1 is announced today. Tune in after the break for live updates.

It's all done now, folks, we have a full gallery of the Windows Mobile 6.1 features they showed during the keynote after the break!



Times below are MST, newest updates at the top.

10:59 - We're done!

10:56 - "Sprint features increasing openness, or as we prefer to call it, open freedom." "Walled Garden company is the company of the past." Do it Sprint. Bragging about full HTML "off portal" browsing - i.e. letting you go to any web page. Woo.

10:55 - expect multimode devices that do both 3G and WiMAX.

10:53 - WiMAX video. Confirmed, XOHM pronounced "zome."

10:50 - No mention of how they've been flailing about lately. Hm. Time to talk WiMAX. They're going for WiMAX, expect a 2 year time to market advantage.

10:49 - Samsung Instinct. Like no other touchscreen phone, pay no attention to the fact that it sorta kinda looks like an iPhone. GPS too. Available this summer.

10:46 - Talking up Simply Everything. $99 for everything - talk, text, data. etc.

10:43 - I should have made a drinking game out of this. "Last year the mobile industry hit a tipping point."

10:41 - wireless company of the future. Launching Push to Talk to CDMA. "The button." Also adding Push to text. Push to email.

10:40 - intro video talks up how the company that can deliver "immediacy" will have the pole position.

10:40 - Steve Largent is back, bringing on President and CEO of Sprint, Dan Hesse. Care to tell us how you're going to survive there, Hesse?

10:38 - Bach is wrapping up. You can tell because he's saying stuff like "inflection point" and "just the beginning."

10:37 - Hey Bach, tell us when! Hey! When? Free? When?!

10:36 - Sprint: HTC Mogul and Touch, the Q9c, and the Samsung Ace will get 6.1

10:35 - AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Alltel will offer 6.1 phones. Now he's going to talk up AT&T: Samsung BlackJack II, Moto Q9h, AT&T Tilt, and Pantech Duo will all get Windows Mobile 6.1

10:33 - "Best looking mobile phone in the industry today." Cocky, nice. Will run 6.1 and the panel experience. Demoing the panel experience. It's not as fast as I'd like... SE will be selling creating panels with partners for other things like services.

Neat little widget panel showing calendar, weather.

10:32 - Bach is back on stage. Talking about Sony Ericsson and likely the XPERIA X1? Yes, the XPERIA X1. Another Demo.

10:31 - Flash Lite will be built-into Windows 6.1. Showing the full YouTube. Ah, the waterskiing squirrel. ...oh, looks like the new IE won't be out until the end of 2008. Bummer.

10:30 - Showing it on a BlackJack II. The click and zoom is very nice, actually, better than you might expect without a touchscreen.

10:29 - Time to show the Windows Mobile 6.1 browser. A new version of Internet Explorer Mobile. Makes sense to bring IE6 and IE7 to windows Mobile. Desktop-like browsing he says, full page not the mobile optimized page.

10:28 - Showing Live Search for Mobile now. Adding Web Search, Weather. Nice. and "Collections." List of most common searches, i.e. "Upcoming music events" that lets you find what's new for whatever area you're in.

10:27 - Bill Gates what to have lunch with Snyder. THREADED TEXT confirmed (as if you didn't know). It's not very real-estate friendly, it takes up a lot of space per message. "Bringing that to market over the next couple of months."

10:26 - Productivity now. Outlook Mobile. COPY/PASTE on all Windows Mobile phones (incl standard). Yay. Also showing smart filter. Hold Shift key to select multiple messages (nice!)

10:25 - Automatic profiles (sets to vibrate when you're in a meeting).

10:24 - neat photo plug in. We'll have photos ourselves, folks, after the keynote is over.

10:23 - A new "getting started" center. Nice. 10 Minutes. 10 Hours. 10 Days. That's Microsoft's mantra. Has email settings, bluetooth settings (can automatically pair, it tries the pairing codes automatically). How to transfer music to your phone, a new music plugin for the home screen.

This is all standard edition, by the way.

10:22 - Samsung BlackJack II, updatable to 6.1. Showing new today screen. "The sliding panel" See most important information on one screen. Can scroll left and right through notifications, shows details of the notification. Each line of the today screen expands to show more details as you move the 5 way over them.

10:22 - Demo Time!! And Bach invites somebody on stage to demo. Oh yes, it's the Master of Mobility, the Wizard of Wireless, the Warlock of Windows Mobile, Dereeeeeeek Snydeeeeer!

10:20 - Simpler and easier to use for voice, data, communications, entertainment. Showing a BlackJack II. New home screen. New Web Experience. "Full Desktop experience you might expect." (not from what we've seen in screenshots.. hm..). Richer entertainment experiences. Talking about Systems Center Mobile Device Manager (which we wrote about during the last live keynote blog from Steve Ballmer).

10:20 - Announcing Windows Mobile 6.1

10:19 - Services. Tellme. Danger. Musiwave. ScreenTonic. Lots of companies Microsoft has purchased to improve services.

10:18 - Driving innovation. Infrastructure, PlayReady, partnering with nvidia for video chipsets. Web - Silverlight (glee, though nothing new here) and mentions they're going to add Flash Lite.

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Let's get one thing clear: we're fond of this CTIA Wireless conference we're headed to. Fond because it's a hotspot of Mobile gadgetry and, just as importantly, a hotbed of people who think clearly and deeply about what mobile gadgetry can do for our lives. It's all sponsored by, naturally, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, which is essentially a trade group representing all the heavy hitters in the mobile world.

There's a rub there, though, and it's not that we're filthy Communists who hate all corporations. We just have a love/hate with certain corporations because they so often limit the way we can (and should) use our mobile devices. The term here is “Walled Garden” and we've been railing against them basically since WMExperts has been founded. CTIA does bequeath a great conference unto us and does manage to do some lobbying for good for the companies that they represent -- but they also do lobbying for evil.

Evil you say? Then why truck with evil? Answers to both questions after the break.

Bad CTIA, Bad

Imagine if your ISP loaded a bunch of crapware onto your desktop and it was required for you to get online? Or if they actually kept your computer from being able to, say, use your preferred music program? Or kept it from using USB because they want to make sure you access your peripherals via a program they sell? Or replaced your Start Menu with stuff pointing to their for-pay services? This sort of thing is standard procedure in much of the smartphone and cellphone world, and it stinks.

Now What?

But WMExperts, if this makes you so angry, why don't you just boycott the conference? Good point -- but we're going to the conference for the same reason we use Smartphones -- there's just so much compelling stuff that we either put up with or find ways around the bad stuff. More importantly -- we go because we get to talk to other people about how the “bad stuff” is crap and think about ways to make these companies change.

The good news is that we're making progress. Both Verizon and then later AT&T have both found it necessary to open up (or at least claim they're opening up) their networks to a wider variety of apps and devices. Unlimited everything plans are a great step toward making your smarthphone's relationship with the internet identical to your computer's -- i.e. you pays your money and you gets your internet, you can buy services from your ISP if you like, but you don't have to.

So CTIA: we hate to break it to you, but the day is coming when the companies you represent are going to have to give up all these nefarious ways to add more revenue streams. They're going to have to become “dumb pipes.” And we can't wait. Meanwhile, we're happy to come to your house and eat your food. Yes, it makes us hypocrites and we do feel a little bad about that, but while we're at your house, eating your food, we'll be telling your kids that there's a better way to act.

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The Windows Mobile Interface

So this entry started as a simple post about how Laptop Mag [via Ciccone] has scored an interview with HTC CEO Peter Chou about HTC's plans for 2008. It's turned into an analysis of why I think the Windows Mobile interface works (and doesn't work) the way that it does and ends with 5 suggestions for Microsoft to improve it. Sometimes these things just sneak up on you.

First, let's get that interview out the way. Quite a bit of it is Android-centric (since that's due later this year), but there's plenty of crunchy Windows Mobile goodness to, er, crunch:

The Windows Mobile platform has a lot of good stuff inside, but the user interface has not been easy. It is very techy and not intuitive. HTC decided to innovate on the user experience, so we launched the HTC Touch and it was a great success. [emphasis mine]

Here's one other tidbit that Chou drops:

This year, we are coming out with even more exciting new product innovations, and we are more focused on the mobile Internet experience. Mobile Internet is going to be key in terms of making the experience more successful.

Will HTC fix our browser problem before Microsoft does? Ponder that for a second, then read on for my thoughts (and rants) about the Windows Mobile interface!

Lizard Brain Intuition

Ok, with regard to that first part of Chou's quote, that the interface is “very techy and not intuitive.” Seems like the time to mount a full throated defense of the WM interface. But no: Chou is right. Although there are some intuitive elements to Windows Mobile (i.e. “Just start typing” to find stuff in contacts, email), they're the kind of “intuitive” that aren't immediately discoverable. Which is the opposite of what “intuitive” is supposed to mean. A contradiction, right? Right.

“Intuitive” is different for different contexts. Here's what intuitive usually means: The ideal interface would somehow get into our lizard brains and we would “get” it like we “get” how to pick up a rock. That's an intuitive interface: a freaking rock. Pick it up, throw it, break stuff. Advanced users: skip it across the water. The iPhone and TouchFLO are much closer to that “lizard brain” intuition than Windows Mobile by dint of their “just touch/move parts around” interface. Microsoft needs to catch up in this field in the worst way. Chou is exactly right, WM is not intuitive in that sense.

“System Intuition”

But there are other kinds of “intuitive interfaces” that we learn very early and though they might not be based on our instinctual lizard brain, they are learned deeply enough that they may as well be “intuitive.” The mouse on your computer is a good example. Sure, there's a “move stuff” metaphor there, but clicking for selecting is the sort of thing you have to learn, but once you do you can apply it in all sorts of scenarios. Same thing for the “right click” on the desktop. A little weird, but once you get that you can generally click the right mouse button for “other options” it can become second nature.

I'll call it “system intuition” even though there's almost surely an actual term for this kind of learned, quasi-intuitive interface knowledge. I just don't know it. If you do - please educate me via the comments!

Driving a manual transmission car, operating various faucets via knobs and levers, dialing a telephone. All learned interfaces that aren't immediately intuitive but become learned so deeply that they may as well be.

Windows Mobile can have this kind of System Intuition for “Pro” users. It often can't for most others. This is a problem.

Windows Mobile is not Windows

The fundamental problem with the interface on Windows Mobile is that Microsoft attempted to leverage our desktop “system intuition” for the smartphone. In theory, this isn't all that bad of an idea. There's a comfort level to mapping an already-known interface to another context. It also can bring along certain associations that can be helpful to the new context. So, for example, a smartphone that you interact with “like Windows” might feel inherently more “like a computer” and “more powerful.”

Here's the thing, though, the desktop is a crappy interface for a mobile device. Here's another thing: people don't feel all that fuzzy about Windows anymore. Here's the last and most important thing: the Windows Mobile interface is hardly like Windows desktop at all and suffers where it actually is like the Windows Desktop.

This is why I cringe every time somebody tries to sell Windows Mobile by saying “It's just like Windows. It's very familiar.” It's not just like Windows, it has an entirely different interface that only partially maps to Windows. Again, where it does map, it stinks. Examples of how Windows Mobile is worse because it shares interface elements with Windows Desktop:

  1. The drop-down “Start Menu” on Windows Mobile Pro. Yes, many people like this, but the target area for the elements in this menu are too small. This is bad
  2. Right clicking by holding down the stylus or the 5-way pad. Seriously, this is a bad idea.
  3. The stylus, period. Again, some folks like it. I find the stylus a horrible stand-in for the mouse and will go to extreme lengths to avoid having to use it. Bad.
  4. The “x” to “close” but not “quit” (though sometimes it will) programs. First off, I shouldn't have to think about memory that often on my mobile device. Bad. Secondly, there's another area (the task manager) that's tangentially related (on many versions of Windows Mobile) Bad. Oh, and it's a really tiny area in the upper-right-hand corner that's difficult to tap with my finger. Really Bad.

...I could probably go on, but I want to point something out here: many of my gripes are based on Windows Mobile Pro, the touchscreen version. I've said here and in our forums that I prefer Smartphone edition lately but can't rightly explain why beyond a feeling that it handles memory better. Now I can explain it: Smartphone Edition has less of the Windows Desktop System Intuition built into its interface and feels better for it.

An Interface To Do List for Microsoft

Let's just end with a few ways Microsoft can fix this:

  1. Forget about the desktop. It doesn't exist. It never existed. Instead, think about how you interact with that rock I mentioned earlier. It's not a mistake that Jeff Hawkins invented the Palm Pilot by carrying around a block of wood. Whatever the present-day equivalent of carrying around a block of wood is, do that.
  2. Unify the platform (you said you would): It's bad enough that there's Desktop Windows interface elements in Windows Mobile. It's well-nigh unforgivable that Windows Mobile Pro and Windows Mobile standard don't share the same interface “System Intuition.”
  3. Keep your strengths (yes, you do have them). One example: that “just start typing” feature, it's really cool. It's a core strength. Let me “Just start typing” for everything. Contacts. Email. Apps. Appointments. Internet, even, if the bandwidth is there. (Update: see also "glanceable information" in the comments!)
  4. Maintain some backwards compatibility, but don't kill yourself to do it. You guys handled the PocketPC 2003 -> Windows Mobile transition really well, you can do it again with the next version.
  5. Work with your manufacturers to let them customize, but don't let them go crazy with it. Right now it's just a little too “Wild Wild West,” out there. We want innovations like TouchFLO, but we also want consistency.

A tall order, perhaps, but check out that there iPhone, it's pretty serious stuff, interface-wise.

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You may have heard the news. Here's our live color commentary of the iPhone SDK event. There's a lot of information to parse out with regards to how this will shake out with Windows Mobile -- including how the applications on the iPhone looked stunning compared to most WM apps. More on that later. For now, let's talk about this: Apple licensed Exchange Active Sync.

What's it mean? Read on!

So the iPhone will gain push email, contacts, and calendar. That's big news for Microsoft - they'll pick up a lot of new users for their server products. In a lot of ways it's a bigger attack on RIM than it is on Windows Mobile. First - Apple denigrated the NOC during their presentation - just like Palm did - saying that a 3rd party in the middle is a Bad Idea. It's also a big attack on RIM because now two platforms do their push email via Exchange - Windows Mobile and the iPhone. Together the two might actually have a bigger marketshare than RIM for enterprise in very short order.

But now that the iPhone will support Exchange, will we see an exodus from WM to the iPhone? We'll definitely see some movement in that direction, yes. On the other hand, I am fairly confident in two things.

First, Exchange Active Sync Features on Windows Mobile will always be more advanced.notice, for example, that Apple seems to be writing their own management program instead of using Microsoft's RIM-Server-Killing Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager. So lock down, provisioning, and other management features will be more advanced with Windows Mobile. Yet that's the smaller point.

The second point is the bigger point: Apple's licensing of Active Sync is very likely to grow the overall Exchange pie at a much faster rate than their slice of it will steal from Windows Mobile. Which is to say, yes, some WM users will defect, but there will be even more new Windows Mobile users by dint of the ever-growing standardization on Exchange for mobile push email for enterprise.

...Or so it seems to me. Microsoft has until the release of the Apps in June to come up with something that looks like a response to the new features that will appear on the iPhone. Will they be able to deliver?

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How To: Edit the Registry

Registry Edits (or as some call them hacks or tweaks) are often times one of the great mysteries of the WM world that can either totally baffle or flat out scare the bejeezus out of first time WM phone owners, or even sometimes veteran users for that matter. But with a little direction and a few proactive and preventive steps, these fears are more often than not largely exaggerated. Registry edits are cool, useful, helpful, can fine tune / optimize / personalize your phone, or sometimes might simply be important to know how to do in order to fix your phone. Editing the Registry is easy, can be safe, and fun to explore and that is what this article is geared to do.

A lot of registry editing tutorials are really short, expecting the reader to have some experience or knowledge with it already, and assume you already know basically what they are talking about. This article is assuming you have never heard of the registry, let alone what you can do with it. I will show you how to safely backup, explore, and edit your phone's registry. The goal here is to clear up all the urban legends about physically and literally blowing up your phone in a ball of flame, resulting in burning down your house and loosing all of your worldly possessions just by tweaking the wrong thing in your WM phone's Registry... and then to open up a whole new world for you with your WM phone.

First thing's first: What the Heck is the Registry??

First of all, please note that due to how complex the registry is under the hood, that I have taken some liberties in simplifying some of the terms and definitions. In other words, from a programmer's point of view, I am not going to be completely accurate or comprehensive. But from a user's point of view who simply wants to edit their WM phone's registry to stop their Bluetooth LED light from blinking and annoying the heck out of them, it is perfectly accurate info.

WikiPedia has a pretty good definition of what the Registry is:

The Windows registry is a directory which stores settings and options for the operating system for Microsoft ....Windows Mobile. It contains information and settings for all the hardware, operating system software, most non-operating system software, users, preferences of the (Mobile Phone), etc. Whenever a user makes changes to Control Panel settings, file associations, system policies, or most installed software, the changes are reflected and stored in the registry.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Registry

For a real geeky detail explanation of what the registry is go here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/256986

Now that you still don't have a clue what the registry is, let me try to explain it. Think of the registry as a single file that holds nearly every possible setting for your phone, the WM OS, any software or game installed on the phone, etc. Think of it as a single file that basically tells the phone who it is, what it has on it, and how to do everything you want it to do. Think of it as just one big file with all the settings for your phone (the hardware), the Operating System, and the software installed. So for example, if you wanted to keep the keyboard backlight to stay lit for 60 seconds instead of only the highest option available of 30 seconds in the settings, you can go into the registry and change it to 60 seconds yourself.

So no matter what you call it, registry edit, tweak, or a hack, you are simply just changing a setting on your phone. That's it. Nothing more.

Editing the registry is officially and traditionally considered a task saved for power users only. But with the instructions and tools in this article this wonderful tool can be opened up to anyone with a WM device.

Safely editing your registry

Not to scare you off from having fun with the cool suggestions in this article, but now before we get started is the perfect time to address the fears of blowing up your phone with editing your registry... look at the reality of any possible risks, and how to restore your phone to its previous state no matter what you do. The two main fears that new users have when starting to look into the registry is:

1) Fatally killing your phone forever
2) Losing all of your personal information without ever being able to get it all back

Both of these are valid... but only to a point. As you will see below, you can stop your phone from working by editing the registry, but this can usually and easily be fixed by a doing a hard reset. The second is not a major concern either, as long as you have a current backup, which is easy to do.

The Reality of your possible risks

It is important to know that if you are editing the registry and it is done carelessly or without a few simple precautions, you can easily stop your phone from working and lose all of your personal data. In a case like this, you have more than likely not "bricked" your phone, but have caused an error where it cannot run "as is" with the changes you made, but it will run again as soon as you do a hard reset. A hard reset changes it back to as if it just left the factory. In other words, the phone will work just fine again, but none of your personal information or software you installed will be on the phone any longer.

The bottom line is that when playing with the registry, you should always be able to hard reset the phone to wipe out any bad errors you may have caused, but in the process wipe out your personal information as well. So in reality, for the most part, the only thing at risk is your personal information, settings you have changed, and software you personally installed, which is really easy to backup and restore so you can have it all back again.

I guess for liability sake, I have to say to "proceed at your own risk" as Murphy's Law often times proves, anything can happen no matter if it is likely or not. Beyond urban legend reports of someone posting that they heard from their best friend's wife's manicurist's dog walker's cousin's mom, who is a totally reliable source that works at a Sprint's independently owned mall outlet in Backwater, WY that they saw a phone another Sprint rep was working on that was totally bricked because the customer edited the wrong key in the registry... I have personally not seen a situation where a hard reset cannot fix a registry edit (and I know someone somewhere is going to point out where and why I am wrong about this). Basically put, you should be able to recover from nearly any published and verified registry edit with no real worries beyond having to do a hard reset and restore you latest backup.

So again, if you do make a change in the registry that stops your phone from working, then there are two simple steps to get it working again:

  1. Do a hard rest on your phone (see the manual for your phone to see which buttons you need to push while you use the stylus to hit the reset button)
  2. Restore your latest backup with all of your personal information and settings

That's it. These two steps are the worst that you should face. No balls of flames... no eternal paperweights.

Safe steps to take when editing the Registry

There are two points of advice I will always give to anyone when tweaking their registry.

The first is to not just go around in the registry and start changing settings willynilly just to see what happens, as you will get unexpected and sometimes fatal results, but instead to stick only with published tweaks that have been posted in articles, proven to work in forums, or found in books. There is always a percentage that will stand out as exceptions, but with most of these published and verified tweaks, even if you accidentally enter in the wrong setting, you can still just go back in and correct it. No harm, no foul.

My second point of advice is a strong one... no one, no matter how experienced, should ever touch their registry without doing this step first! That is to do a complete backup each time before you edit your registry to make sure that all of your latest settings and personal info are saved and ready to restore at anytime for any reason. Sprite Backup or SPB Backup are the two backup programs I personally recommend.

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You may have heard that there was a serious BlackBerry outage this week, millions of people were unable to get email or browse the web [corrected] on their CrackBerrys for several hours, causing some consternation amongst the addicts:

For Blackberry users, Monday left us feeling like a toddler with no Spongebob. Thought of “Why! Why?” and “What in the world is going on!” flowed through our heads. We cried to each other, and to those who could have cared less, and waited it out (as we had no other choice) and hoped for the best.

The worst part was twofold - as the above article claims, RIM wasn't immediately forthcoming about the problem. When they did let us in on what happened, it was the same thing that happened last April, a software upgrade gone wrong, a problem they promise would never happen again.

Of course, I did a little personal crowing about the entire situation. Turns out that I'm not the only one who had that thought, as Palm has launched what can only be called a multimedia, Simpsons-character-Nelson-style “HA HA!” directed at RIM. Though it rings a little tinny to CrackBerry fans, I find it hilarious.

First up - a new front page graphic at Palm.com and a New York Times full page ad to go with it. “Palm Smartphones include voice, email, text, Web, calendar and contacts ...And most importantly, uptime.” Take a close look at this picture of their NYT ad: “Has anyone heard from out West Coast team? Anyone? Anyone?” ...It must have taken a firm resolve not to add “Bueller?” at the end of that.

Now the hilarious graphic at top, from Palm's new “No Middleware” information page on the benefits on an Exchange Server.

Now, there are a few benefits to having a Network Operations Center handle everything - namely it takes some work off of the shoulders of IT folks and end users. It's a philosophy I don't ascribe to, however. Were my Exchange server to go down (it happens), I could call up the person in charge of it and ream him out directly, not wait for a faceless giant to clue me in. It ties in very directly with my thoughts on the BlackBerry during the Smartphone Round Robin (First Look and Final Thoughts), where I hijacked Umberto Eco's comparison of Macs and PCs for the purpose of comparing Windows Mobile to BlackBerrys:

In this case, the Catholic smartphone is the BlackBerry, the Protestant Smartphone is Windows Mobile. Basically, the BlackBerry takes all the work of setting email up and moves onto the priests of BlackBerry - the BIS servers.

The benefit of having a 3rd party company handle your email pushing is, as I said, getting work off your shoulders. Here's the thing, though, that work is getting much much easier for both IT pros and for end users. Microsoft is very close to perfecting their auto setup for Pocket Outlook and on the IT side, when then release Microsoft System Center, Mobile Device Manager 2008, they will have all the important management features of the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) and match its ease of use for people standardized on Microsoft tech. RIM will keep innovating, though, so there may always be an “this is easier on us” advantage to their NOC, but the ease-of-use margin is getting thinner, thin enough that a little something like a nationwide service outage might be enough to push some folks over.

At that point, there are only reasons I could see using BES:

  1. Lock in - you're already on BES and changing over to a full Exchange solution is a hassle
  2. You're not on Microsoft tech for your server and email solutions.

Microsoft really needs to address the 2nd reason someday -- offer a push email and management solution that's not dependent on Exchange servers. They never will, though, so we'll be depending on companies like Seven, Good, and, yes, RIM to fill that hole. As for the first reason, well, jump on in, kids, the water's fine. ;)

...Back to Palm - check out the chutzpah, right? Company's had all sorts of bad press lately, but despite all that they're unapologetic about the Treo and its capabilities. Sure, they've been all about the Centro as a low-end consumer device lately, but their Enterprise/power user Windows Mobile Treos are still pretty darn good, too, and they don't want us to forget it. Sure, they're not top-of-the-line (yet: the Treo 800w and the Drucker can't come fast enough), but they're solid devices. I still think that the Treo 750 has the best one-handed usability of any device out there by dint of its great keyboard and the ability to use a touchscreen when needed.

I'm not going to convince BlackBerry users of that, of course (check out the comments on our sister site, CrackBerry.com - where they posted about Palm's teasing), but that's alright. Next time (and there will be a next time) your Crackberrys are all cashed out I'll be standing over on the street corner with a WinMo device in my pocket. When you come over, shaking and needing a fix, I'll tell you the truth: Windows Mobile is a much more powerful hit.

So Bravo, Palm, for having the brains to add Windows Mobile to your Treo offerings way back when and for not being shy about its qualities now. Some haters are going to tell you that you should be one to talk after all the problems you've had in the past year or so. Don't listen to them, just put your energy into righting that ship and delivering unto us the Treo 800w and the Drucker postehaste.

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I had a chance to get a demo of the upcoming SkyFire browser (over Skype) last week and I gotta tell you - it's hot. Here's the skinny - it's currently in private beta (sign up here) with a public beta planned for later this quarter. It works on Windows Mobile Pro and Standard (and Symbian, hush), and it's really, really awesome. As in, “my envy for the iPhone's browser may soon be coming to an end” kind of awesome.

Here's how it works - it's a server-side solution (more on that inside) based on Gecko (same bits behind Firefox's rendering). Basically everything gets rendered on the server and then sent out to your phone. That solves some of the processor / speed issues, but it also adds more benefits, like full AJAX, Flash, Javascript, you name it. I watched the browser instantly load an embedded YouTube video (from a random page on our site) and start playing with nary a jag and nary a lag -- this over a UMTS connection, mind you.

The SkyFire teams told me “Our goal is that if Firefox can render it, then your Windows Mobile phone will render it the exact same way.”

There more, including a screenshot gallery, after the break!

For the first time ever, smartphone
users can experience the “real Web” to access and interact with any Web
site built with any Web technology, including dynamic Flash, advanced Ajax,
Java and more - at the same speeds they are accustomed to on their PC -


Server Side is Awesome / Not Awesome

So the benefit of having 90% of the work on a server is you get snappy rendering, full support for basically any web standard, and fast downloads. You get the desktop browser pushed out to your phone.

The downside - that server best stay up, hey? It also best keep your data secure and private (SkyFire says that's been their #1 priority, even in their early betas). Lastly, though, server's ain't free. SkyFire hasn't settled on a pricing model yet, but they're leaning towards ads before subscriptions to keep the service free. The company was keen to show me their portal - which pulls from multiple search engines - so that's probably going to be part of the model.

The Software Itself

One .cab file for the browser, that's all you install to get full Flash, AJAX (the thing can handle the craziest of Google Maps/Apps AJAX), etc. Since it's all handled server-side

The SkyFire browser has all the necessary zoom and bookmark features you'd expect from a browser of this sort. It also has a “fit to screen” feature -- but with a neat difference. Instead of re-rendering the entire webpage to fit your screen, it actually just renders the different sections of text to fit your screen in place. So you still get the basic layout of the site, but when you zoom into a piece of text to read it you know it will be set to the right width for comfortable reading at your mobile's resolution.

...It's about time we had a browser that's not only competitive with the iPhones, but that beats it in several categories. The fact that it's all server-side is the real story here, though, as that's SkyFire's greatest strength and weakness.

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Update: Now that we have the new specs on the Treo 800w, we thought we'd update the specs on the contest itself. Instead of a 6 gig microSDHC card, the prize package will now have an 8 gig card.

We are confident, very confident, that the Treo 800w is coming in the next few months. And we are confident, mega confident, that it's going to be a super cool device. Confident enough that we're going to run out and buy one the very day they are available, whenever that day may be. A Windows Mobile 6 Pro device with 320x320 resolution, WiFi, (probably) GPS... and you can easily use the sucker one-handed. That mops the floor with the Treo 700wx and even makes the Mogul a little nervous.

And we don't even use Sprint! So - we're going to give the Treo 800w away. Yes, folks, we're running a contest to give away a rumored device that hasn't been released yet. It's future-iffically rumortastic!

Giving away what might potentially be a non-existent device will, naturally, require a few rules and, er, procedures - get those after the break. The short version is this: In the comments of this post, make a guess about the release date of the Treo 800w. We'll do a random drawing amongst the people who get it right. The winner will receive:

  • A Treo 800w after it is officially released. If they end up calling it something else, well, let's just say we're giving away the next Windows Mobile device Palm releases for the Sprint Network. Got it?
  • An 8 gig microSD Card. Yeah, the WMExperts Store has 8 gig cards now.
  • Any 2 software titles from HobbesIsReal's excellent “Must-Have Windows Mobile Software” article. Sure, Palm will include some “secret recipe” stuff on the 800w, but you can always make Windows Mobile a little better. We believe in the software in Hobbes' article, you should too.

Full rules and info after the break. We're taking off early for the Holidays, everybody, so consider this contest a gift from WMExperts - one of those “we promise we'll make it up to someday” kinda gifts, but a gift nonetheless. See you Wednesday!

How to Enter

Register and post a reply to this post with a guess at the exact date (just the date, not the time) the Treo 800w will be released. You may guess as many times as you like, but only your most recent guess in this thread will count as your entry.

That's it!

More Rules

  1. One entry per person (i.e. your most recent guess) 1.5. Although you can guess as often as you like, your guess must be at least 2 weeks away from the date you're posting (ex. if you post on January 1st, your guess cannot be before January 14th).
  2. Contest will end at midnight the day before an official date is announced by either Palm or Sprint. Which basically means you'll want to settle on a date early, because when we find out officially, well, we'll have to disqualify any posts made that day.
  3. Not open to employees or contractors of Smartphone Experts (sorry to our writers and mods!), Palm, or Sprint (no cheaters!)
  4. Open to US residents only (hey, it's Sprint)
  5. We'll pick the winner randomly from all the posts that get it right or, if none do, from the posts that get closest (assuming there's more than one). “Closest” can be before or after, this isn't The Price Is Right, people.

Hop to it, People!

Update: Since we now have Sprint's planned release date: July 22nd, any votes for that date on or after May 5th at 4PM EST don't count.

Of course, if you don't believe Sprint will hit that target, feel free to keep guessing. :)

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We'll be posting up a full review of the Motorola Q9h and the Mogul next week (and even a mini-review of the Motorola MC35). There'll be more smackdowns to come too (intra-carrier style), but for now I'm itching to try something new out. I've already said that I prefer the Q9h to the BlackJack II, but as sbono13 pointed out in the comments, the BJII is a full $200 bucks cheaper (with contract) than the Q9h... so I'm thinking I should give that device a full rundown as well. Toss in the fact that I have (unfairly?) poo-poohed the Pantech Duo and the Samsung i760 and suddenly we're looking at a whole smorgasbord of Windows Mobile smartphones. That's a situation I love, but I can't decide.

So, what to do about that itch? Let you decide. Head on over to the thread associated with this post and vote in the poll. We'll leave the poll open through Tuesday, February 5th. We're also making your choices public so we can track 'em, not because we're nefarious, but because we'll choose one lucky voter from the top choice to win a $100 coupon at the WMExperts Store!

After the break - see the smartphones sitting on my desk, waiting on my eternal judgment (and the full rules to the contest). To vote, just click on this here link

Here are the

I'd like to stick to phones that have carrier support in the US, if you're wondering about the choices above.

Contest Rules

  1. Not open to Smartphone Experts employees or contractors (but mods, go for it)
  2. Coupon only good for merchandise, you'll have to pay the S&H (sorry)
  3. 1 entry per person
  4. Contest ends on February 5th at Midnight.
  5. The winner will be chosen at random from all the people who voted for the smartphone that receives the most votes (in other words, there's strategy involved!)
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CTIA 2008: Bill Gates Keynote LiveBlog

Howdy folks. After two hours of waiting (and about another hour to go, but we're live at Bill Gates' last CES keynote ever. We're not sure if there's going to be anything Windows Mobile-related, but we're pumped nevertheless. Stay tuned!

5:55 (Mountain Time, we're in Vegas Baby Vegas, don'tcha know?): We are still a half hour away. The room is jam-packed. If anybody has a BB gun, please come down here and take a few shots at the purple lights they have shining out into the crowd.

6:25: Here we go. Good sign: all the clipart images are of folks holding Windows Mobile phones and smiling a lot.

6:30: Funtime Intro Music over a montage of CES gadetry serenades us as we wrestle with a terrible connection. Too many people want to use our AT&T 3G. CEA Honco Gary Shapiro is on stage now, talking up the CES show.

6:35: Introducing Bill Gates - as though Bill Gates needs it.

6:40 Heeeere's Bill! Title of the talk "The Next Digital Decade." Sounds like fun. Bill takes us down a trip on memory lane - since his first CES keynote in 1994.

6:45 Calls attention to the fact that this is his last keynote and that later this year he'll go from fulltime at Microsoft to fulltime at his foundation. Sniffle. Looks like we're getting a video to help him prepare for his last day.

6:50 Bono and the Edge won't let Bill into the band. Aww. The video is heavy on the cameos - it brings the funny.

6:50: Whoa - that would be a white Palm something or other on the screen! def. an 800w or something that looks identical to the leaked version. He's talking about "connected experiences," but we're looking at that Treo.

6:55: Predicting "HD everywhere" and real 3D internet experiences. We've heard this 3D prediction before. Showing some mockup of a futurephone - looks pretty nice, actually. Meanwhile emphasizing how important it is for all devices to be connected via services invisibly so, say, you don't have to muck around organizing your photos and moving them from device to device.

6:57: the importance of "Natural User Interface" - Touch on "Windows PC and on the iPhone" (yes, he said it). Voice on the Ford Sync. Gestures, etc. "We're just at the beginning of this."

6:58: 100 Million people using Vista (whoa - much higher that I would have guessed). Neat new form factor PCs using Vista. 420 Million people use Windows Live. Windows Mobile: 10 Million new users last year, 20 Million users next year.

7:00: Ohh. Input causes problems with Vista, Live, and Mobile. Input Innovations coming.

7:00: Product Demo - Windows Live Services. Windows Live Calendar - overlay different people's calendars to see what's available. Windows Live Events - evite, basically, plus photo sharing. Windows Live Photo Gallery - automagically integrate multiple pictures of the same area into a panoramic photo. Sweet.

7:05: Windows Live Mobile - demoing on an HTC Touch. Adding photos to Windows Live Spaces.

7:05: Bill is back, he's demo'ing Microsoft Surface - their touch-based tabletop PC. Neat ideas - set your phone on the table to auto-upload stuff from surface to Windows Spaces.

7:07: Silverlight time. Announcing that NBC is using Microsoft as their exclusive US partner for the 2008 Olympics. That'll get people to install the Silverlight plugin, eh? NBC video of how happy they are about this partnership coming up.

7:10 - our laptop battery is dying everybody! We'll be back with more later!

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Making a cameo appearance on the big screen during the Gates keynote, a future version of Windows Mobile! Maybe. It could be Windows Mobile 6.1, but it doesn't look anything like what BGR leaked awhile back. And yes, it could be just a custom skin. If that's the case, then color us impressed with HTC's customizations. If that's not the case, then either we just caught MS with their pants down or they're viral marketing geniuses (or this isn't new at all and we're the ones lacking trousers).

Take a look at the new Start Menu of listing programs / settings / etc. It looks like there's a left/right menu on top to switch between “Programs,” “Settings,” “Photos,” “Internet,” and so on, then up/down to switch between the stuff within those categories.

Full gallery after the jump!

(p.s. since we lost connectivity last night, expect our live coverage article to be updated with some photos in just a bit)

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