MSN Direct, once the favorite of nerd watch wearers everywhere, is finally available on a platform that people actually use -- Windows Mobile. The service, if you haven't heard of it, gives you quick access to news, weather, stock updates, and a bit more. It's basically a lightweight widget platform.
It's a free service, but of course you'll want to make sure you've got an unlimited data plan. It looks like, at least initially, it may only support Windows Mobile Standard.
You data belongs in the cloud, not trapped on your desktop and your smartphone, painfully getting synced manually. It's looking like whether you're in enterprise or a consumer, it won't be long before Windows Mobile will be the best choice to keep you truly wireless.
Microsoft Corp. today announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire Danger Inc., the company responsible for the software and services powering many popular consumer handsets. The acquisition will align Danger’s nearly 10 years of expertise in the mobile consumer space with Microsoft’s vision to provide innovative and compelling mobile experiences to a growing base of customers. - [press release]
So Windows Mobile has an image of being a business user / power user / techno user OS, eh? How will Microsoft deal with that? With a giant influx of talent from the group that makes the favorite device of children and celebrity endorsers everywhere, of course.
Robbie Bach, who heads up the division that runs WinMo (and entertainment devices), had a chat with PCMag about the deal. The Sidekick is going to stick around as it is (at least for awhile). What Microsoft is really interested in, it seems, is Danger's services - even though the Sidekick is the simplest of smart phones these days, it does a stellar job of storing its data “in the cloud” -- exactly where it belongs.
Bodes well for Windows Mobile's future consumer appeal!
Good lord, the mobile browser space on Windows Mobile is absolute on fire lately. The newest entrant is Iris, from Torch Mobile. They announced at MWC and you can go download it right now. Iris is getting distributed by Trolltech - those crazy Linux Smartphone developers who were recently purchased by Nokia. But whatever, it's available on Windows Mobile.
Iris, like Safari on the iPhone and Nokia's browsers, is based on Webkit. It certainly seems to render everything exactly as it ought -- in fact it renders perhaps a little too well as it doesn't seem to offer any smart-wrapping features for text. Generally speaking it doesn't seem to have Still, if you're looking for a free option that will render just like you expect, Iris might be fun.
You maybe have met the Advantage before - perhaps at a CompUSA firesale (CompUSA being one of the few places you could score an advantage). The Advantage is a strange duck, it's a Windows Mobile device with a 640x480 resolution touchscreen and a little separate keyboard. While it's technically a smartphone, it's certainly not something you'd want to hold up your ear (doesn't work that any anyhow). Still, though, it's an interesting concept and could be just the sort of in-between device you've been looking for.
Enough exposition: HTC is announcing that they're upping the specs on the Advantage today, it's now the X7510. What's changed? Well they've fixed up the keyboard by adding in haptic feedback, doubled the memory to 16 gigs, updated TouchFLO, tossed in Opera 9.5 (or will, that is), and pumped up the battery to 2100mAH (!). You still get the Triband HSDPA/Quad-Band EDGE + WiFi + 3.1MP camera + Bluetooth + tilt-sensing G sensor + GPS (TomTom included).
It may not be the smallest little guy around, but HTC makes up for it with some power, hey? Oh, and it's going to sport a “Future Version of Windows Mobile” when it's available in March. Cue the ORLY owl.
The HTC Shift, if you didn't know, is a sweet mashup of a UMPC and a Windows Mobile device. HTC calls the “SnapVUE,” we call it “The magic button that instantly switches between Windows Mobile and Vista.” It's available, at long last, but it looks like Europe is getting it first (is anybody else detecting a theme here). In our hands-on with the HTC Shift during CES 2008, we didn't spend too much time on the Vista side of things and that's looking like perhaps it was a good decision. A good decision because the Vista side of the Shift just got a lot spicier with the addition of Microsoft's Origami software.
Origami (it's ok, we forgot it existed too) is Microsoft's suite of neat tools specifically designed for touchscreen UMPCs. It has widgets like Picture-based passwords, re-vamped interfaces with big, touchable buttons, and little notepads.
HTC has managed to pick up carrier support from Telefonica and Orange in various countries, selling the Shift for 1199 Euro.
MWC 2008 is still swinging, the latest to come out is the HTC P3470. It's a lowish-end Windows Mobile 6 Pro device: Think HTC Touch minus TouchFLO and WiFi, but you can add in GPS. The P3470 comes pre-equipped with TomTom for navigation and has the HTC Home Screen we've all come to know and love. It's “lowish-end” because it's EDGE only, folks, no 3G or WiFi. One nice bit, it looks like that 5-way pad might double as a scroll wheel.
That said, it's awfully tiny (see the specs below) and clocks in at 449 Euro before subsidies. Note the “Euro” in that price, there, looks like this thing will be launching on Orange first. We might see it here in the states someday, though, as it is Quad-Band.
You smell that, folks? It's the excitement coming out of Barcelona and the Mobile World Congress. First up: we have a new manufacturer in the Windows Mobile camp, and it's Sony Ericsson! The picture above is the Sony XPERIA X1 (do we really have to capitalize it like that?). The X1 is a Widows Mobile 6 Professional Slider - a combination of a Touchscreen and a slide out QWERTY keyboard is nothing new. But check out this pic of exactly how it slides out - it arcs:
Shiny, no? They've added some interface tweaks on top of WM too, some ZuMobi-esque “Panels” that you can slide around to you heart's content. There's also the “optical joystick” that we panned on the Samsung SGH-i780. Thankfully there's also the standard 5-way on there as well.
Specs are hotness too:
HSDPA/HSUPA (Quad Band, too), WiFi
3.2 Megapixel Camera
110 x 53 x 16.7 mm
Read that last one again, why don't you? That's “VGA” (Sony's term, not ours, thanks for the correction tferrill!), as in 800x600. It should be arriving “second half of 2008” in “selected markets.” Select us! Select us!
More photos after the break! Also after the break, a fancy video commercial snippet that will show you the new panels interface
Note - the device doesn't show its face until a full minute in.
This coming Tuesday, WMExperts turns 1 year old (yarly!). We've been growing fast and we're a bit past due to pick up some new writers -- that's where you come in. Want to join our already awesome team and make it, um, awesome-r? Let us know:
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Writing for WMExperts” and some info in the body:
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Tell us how often you would be able to submit posts or articles
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Things are heating up right quick in the Windows Mobile Browser space, aren't they. We had our socks knocked off by SkyFire, only to wake up the next morning and wonder if maybe a complete server-side browser isn't necessarily such a good idea. Then Opera, our current fave, teased us with video of their upcoming 9.5 version. We loved it. Well, not to be outdone, Access has revealed that they're still working on their NetFront browser and that they are beating the others to the punch by letting you download a
Now, don't get too crazy over this, but ITWire is reporting that Microsoft might be pitching Windows Mobile to ....Nokia. While Microsoft has confirmed that they've been talking to Nokia, it doesn't look like Nokia has any plans to adopt the Windows Mobile operating system on their devices. Symbian, Nokia's OS of choice, is still far and away the global leader by margins that would make your head spin.
Nokia does use some Microsoft tech, namely some connectivity with Exchange, compatibility with PlaysForSure, and a Live Search client. Not to mention that MSN Chat is more popular globally than it is here in the US ...just like Symbian. Our guess is that this is all more likely about extending those services on the Symbian platform.
But if you're feeling crazy, dig this quote from Microsoft's John Starkweather:
“We work closely with Nokia and we would love to have them go all the way,” he said.
Wouldn't we all. :) Of note, the Mobile World Congress (nee 3GSM) is coming up in a few short days, so if there was a ridiculously weird and game-changing announcement like Nokia hardware running Windows Mobile, we'd likely hear about it next week. But don't hold your breath.
Update: Yeah, you really shouldn't hold your breath. ITWire took a little "creative license" in suggesting that Microsoft and Nokia were seriously considering a huge OS shift like this. Still, though, it's nice to dream.
Dear carriers: This is how you roll out a ROM update. You make a nice website for it. You clearly lay out the benefits of the update. And you throw in some freebies like ringtones so that the average Joe--who would ignore a “bugfix update” like he ignores his aunt Betty's ranting--will go and download it. Kudos all around.
If you have a Shadow, go on and get the update here. You'll get yourself “Audio postcards” (aka MMS with Audio), some music control enhancements, and the aforementioned bugfixes -- like improved typing on that suretype keyboard of yours. Oh, and that persistent multiple alarm issue will finally be fixed.
We've complained with more than a touch of bitterness that Windows Live Services are confusing. You've got your Live Search, your Windows Live, your Windows Live Search, and so on. Some of which may be used either over the web or as applications, both on desktop and mobile. We could also bring up that “MSN” still seems to be hanging about here and there as well. It's a mess of dot-Net-size proportions.
So seeing this story over at Ars Technica was nice. Microsoft apparently intends to fix up the branding for Windows Live fairly soon as well as add some mystery features later on this year (“wave 3”), which will be much more search-centric. Internally the code name for this action is “Rome.”
Of course, this is all up in the air pending what shakes out of Microsoft's proposed buyout of Yahoo. We said the merger would be good for mobile services and we meant it. Hopefully the first benefit will be clearer names for all the goodies that Microsoft offers us in the cloud.
Over at LiveSide.net, a blog about Windows Live, we get some more details about what MS is thinking:
Re-branding Live Search on its own, without the Yahoo! acquisition, would be a move ripe for derision by Microsoft's detractors, seen as another flailing attempt to make a move on Google. But a new brand combining Live Search with Yahoo!, when it comes on board, makes much more sense. The new brand, with new market share and the combined engineering talents of Microsoft and Yahoo!, would lead the way in restructuring Microsoft's live services to accomodate the inclusion of Yahoo!. And for those who dwell in the past at Microsoft's laughable naming conventions, consider Silverlight and Popfly and a new generation of Microsoft branding, and that Live Search has already been disassociated with the Windows Live brand, possibly in preparation for exactly this move. With the need to consolidate search products as the top priority once the Yahoo! acquisition is in place, a move now to establish a new brand, neither Live Search or Yahoo! but a new brand for a new generation of search, comes at the right time.
In other words, they're hearing us loud and clear. Bravo!