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From the CES files: Microsoft Tag

Here's one we didn't quite get to earlier this month at CES 2009: Microsoft Tag. If the little barcode looks familiar, it should. It's in the same family as the QR Code, the black-and-white dot matrix-looking guy that gained popularity in Japan but hasn't really made it anywhere else.

Now Microsoft is pushing this new standard. Basically, using an app from Microsoft, you take a picture of the tag. The app then gets the metadata off the tag, then heads online to display a Web page, Vcard, text ad, dialier, etc.

Advantages over the black-and-white QR Code:

  • The color and design of the tag allow for more data in a smaller space.
  • It works better with cell phone cameras.
  • Unlike QR Code, this has the full weight of Microsoft behind it.

What's holding it back:

  • This never got off the ground in Japan. Is a better tag enough to make it popular here? Right now, this beta program is only available in the U.S.
  • It's yet one more standard for developers and users. And this one is "owned" by microsoft and needs its servers to work in the first place.
  • Because it goes through the mothership, Microsoft will have all sorts of metrics on who uses the tags (as well as on you, the user). And right now, it's free to create a tag. Will it always be so?
  • Let's face it: This is still pretty gadgety, even for us.

If you want to give it a shot, head on over to www.microsoft.com/tag and download the app, then start snapping away. We'll even give you a tag to start with. (pdf link)


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Long rumored and finally revealed earlier this month as "Beauty and the Beast," HP's Voice Messenger and HP's Data Messenger (we sort of prefer the codenames, Oak and Silver, ourselves) are impressively unimpressive in person.  That is to say -- they're straightforward Windows Mobile 6.1 implementations with no flies on them.  The hardware is slick on both devices.  The Data Messenger is the slider and the slide action is just peachy, with a very subtle wave on the keyboard to remind you that there were actually engineers behind this thing.  

The Voice Messenger (out on Vodafone) is also quality and if we were fans of sure-type, we'd be (mostly) sold. See, we're not convinced that replacing the d-pad with a touch-sensitive 'swipe and tap circle' is a great idea, but we figure for the casual and fashion-sensitive users the voice messenger is targeting, such distinctions are less important than the (excellent) pocketability of the device.

Neither device has carrier acceptance in the US and given HP's recent track history, you're more likely to see one of them on Rogers in Canada than you are on AT&T or T-Mobile.  Still, a lot of folks like the plain-jane HP iPaq 910c, so to see the same company put out some sexy kit is a sort of vindication.

Getcher specs and more photos after the break!

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Hands On With the Motorola Q11


Sure, the Motorola Q11 isn't going to rock your world anytime soon (heck, unless you live in South America, it's unlikely to show up in your world at all), but it's worth one last look.  If Moto really is serious about getting out of the Windows Mobile business, we need to get as much of their front-facing QWERTY goodness in front of us as we can.  

The Q11, as you may recall from its official launch, is an EDGE-only handset with GPS and WiFi thrown in on the side, meant primarily for South America.  Hardware-wise, it pretty much feels like the Moto Q9c -- though we'll admit to being slightly jealous of the 3 megapixel camera.

The Q line -- we still like it.  There aren't enough WinMo standard QWERTYs out there -- the BlackJack II and the Q9 series are pretty much it for North America.  Given how popular the form factor really is, it's going to be a long wait for that Maple to arrive.

More photos after the break -- 11 of them, to be precise.  Ahem.

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Hands On with the Mobinnova Ice


While we originally thought that the Mobinnova Ice boded well for the company's ability to manufacture future Xperias, our hands on during CES 2009 almost fills us with foreboding.  See, the fit and finish of this model leaves a bit to be desired, although perhaps our expectations were a little too high.  This is actually a pretty standard 'black-slab' WinMo device -- the main innovation here is that '2nd screen,' which in our testing didn't do much more than act like a sub-par D-Pad.  It worked, but it also made us wish they'd just added more pixels to the main screen and then used software magic to add in a D-Pad there.

....Or not.  Although Mobinnova did go through the now-required motions of adding their own custom software on top of Windows Mobile, it's not much to look at (see the photos after the break).

So yeah, we're not huge fans of the Ice, but that doesn't mean that the future is necessarily grim for the Xperia line.  It just means that Sony Ericsson will need to do all the heavy lifting on design and software (something we figure they're doing anyway), and just leave it to Mobinnova to pump out the darn things.

Gallery and specs after the break.

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After seeing this post at jkOnTheRun, I hot-footed it over to Mio's booth to check out their new device -- which is a Mobile Internet Device running Windows Mobile Pro 6.1.  It's still very much a prototype, they're still deciding on final specs, and they're not even sure that they're going to bring it to market.  Price, final RAM, even whether or not it will have a SIM card slot for connectivity are all up in the air.

Nevertheless, it's one sweet piece of kit and the best Windows Mobile device I've seen at CES.  Find out more after the break and check out our hands-on gallery!

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Netflix on Windows Mobile?

Well, not exactly. One of the many subjects Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer covered during his keynote address to the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show was the introduction of a new Windows Mobile application that will let people manage and update their Netflix queues from their WM devices. Check out a brief demo of it here at the 2:10 mark.

The application ties into the Netflix-Xbox Live partnership, which was also a highlight of the keynote address. The Xbox gaming system remains the only game system that lets consumers instantly watch movies and television episodes streamed from Netflix. The Windows Mobile application will let you schedule and prompt these streams.

Stay tuned today for more on Ballmer's keynote as well as the rest of the 2009 CES.

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Hands-on with the New Shadow UMA

We still don't have a firm release date (though the folks at the T-Mobile booth did give a sly smily when we mentioned the "late January" rumor) on the new Shadow, we do have a full hands on.  As expected, you're not going to see any 3G here, but you are getting a Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard smartphone with support for T-Mobile Hotspot - aka UMA aka VOIP aka free calls over voicemail.

After the break, get your spec rundown, brief impressions, and photo gallery, including some shots of how that UMA software sets itself up for ya.  As for an offical name, it's "The Shadow with Hotspot," but we're going to go with "Shadow UMA" because "Shadow II" is played out and "Shadow 2009" is just wrong.

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Man, Palm just can't catch a break with these keynotes, can they?  Last year, we caught Microsoft accidentally showing a sneak preview of the Palm Treo 800w on the video screen.  This year, we have another Palm Treo, running Windows Mobile, popping up, that we're fairly confident is technically an unreleased and announced device.

See, during the keynote Microsoft very briefly touted Internet Explorer 6's flash support.  That's all well and good, but we also know that IE6 Mobile isn't going to be made available on current devices -- instead it requires a whole new ROM and a decent amount of power on whatever device it lands on.

We already have seen screenshots of Internet Mobile 6 leaked here on WMExperts and also seen speed tests from an unreleased Sprint Treo indicating the browser was Internet Explorer 6.  So sure, it's entirely possible that we are looking at a GSM Treo Pro running Internet Mobile 6 with a customized ROM.   But why go through all the trouble of creating a custom ROM when there's a perfect explanation of what we have here?  The explanation, folks, is that the photo you are looking at above almost surely is a Sprint Treo Pro.  Maybe next year Palm should ask to sit in on the dress rehersal for the Microsoft keynote, eh?

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