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windows mobile

We're almost there, folks. It's the penultimate week of the third annual Smartphone Round Robin, and this week Android Central's Casey Chan teaches me a thing or three about the little green robot. I've said it many a time, but Windows Mobile and Android share a lot in common, and we're definitely going to get down to the bottom of it.

In addition, I've started a thread over at AndroidCentral.com to get the help of the Android faithful. Head on over and see what they have to say. And remember than anytime you comment in an official Smartphone Round Robin thread, you're entered to win a free smartphone from that site (up to $1,000). So get to it, boys and girls!

Oh, and check out my Android hands-on with Casey after the break.

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2

Visiting Microsoft at CES

 

Unsurprisingly, there wasn't much at Microsoft's CES booth that we hadn't seen before. The HTC HD2 and yesterday's official announcement that it will be available "this spring" on T-Mobile was on the tip of everyone's tongues. But other than that, there were no new Windows phones announced.

We did take a spin with Ford Sync, which is Microsoft's system that will pair just about any device -- Bluetooth or otherwise -- with a new Ford or Mercury vehicle. Voice commands are the key to the whole thing, so you keep your hands on the wheel.

The Zune guys were more than happy to hear that we're hoping to see Zune software integrated into Windows Mobile in the next year or so. But we could get neither them nor the Windows phone folks to spill the beans as to what might or might not be coming in Windows Mobile 7.

Awkward moment of the morning: Our pal Rene Ritchie from The iPhone Blog hits up the Bing team to ask about the Bing iPhone app. And they'd never heard of it.

Photos of the exploits after the break.

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Market Share by Net Application is a company that analyzes website traffic and generates a trend analysis based on this activity. While there are many naysayers about how successful Windows Mobile 6.5 has been, Market Share's latest trends analysis may put some of the "Windows Mobile is dead" comments to rest.

From November to December 2009, Windows Mobile experienced a 50% increase in web traffic measured by Market Share. Windows Mobile jumped from a .04% share of the traffic to .06%. The growth is second only to the Android OS. The iPhone remains at the top of the heap, claiming .44% of the traffic, with Symbian pulling in .23% of the traffic.

There was no explanation for the increase, but the increase could be a sign that a)Windows Mobile 6.5 is more successful and inviting than many thought b) Microsoft's advertising campaign for Windows Mobile is more successful than first thought or b) the spike is device related. We are seeing more powerful Windows phones hitting the market (LG Expo and HTC HD2) that improve Windows Mobile's browsing capabilities.

Regardless of the reason behind this spike, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues into this new year.

Via WMPoweruser

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Seeing Windows Mobile and the Xbox 360 coming together really shouldn't be a surprise to anybody -- we've seen evidence to that effect before. But there's a new job posting out that points directly to the future of WinMo. From the listing: 

We're connecting players via the LIVE services on new devices beyond the console. We need a Principle Program Manager who can help drive the platform and bring Xbox LIVE enabled games to Windows Mobile. This person will focus specifically on what makes gaming experiences "LIVE Enabled" through aspects such as avatar integration, social interactions, and multi-screen experiences.

That's just vague enough to make us wonder if we'll actually be playing games on Windows phones, or if they'll become some soft of ancillary device in the Xbox experience. Either way, it's something we're looking forward to. [Mobile Tech World via Engadget]

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What could we possibly have to say about Apple and the iPhone that hasn't been said countless times already? Plenty. Given that Apple has spent the past year largely consolidating its power in the mobile space, and Microsoft has spent the past year making many wonder if they're going to continue in the mobile space, it's fitting that we take a look at the two here in the second week of the third annual Smartphone Round Robin.

There will be no talk of iPhone killers.

There will be no talk of the death of Windows Mobile.

OK, there may be a little. Keep reading for more.

Update: Addendum

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Sure while everyone is taking pot-shots at Windows Mobile and market share hub-bub, people are using it left and right to get things done in the world.  The latest group to do so is not some fly-by night company but the United States Army.

Launching their Go Mobile Gear, designed for the modern, tech savvy solider (who would be laughed off the battle field for having a pansy iPhone), the U.S. military has approved a handful of  "...communications and conferencing devices that can fit into a soldier’s pocket while going easy on the service’s pocketbook."

Soldiers can use these devices to access "...the Army Knowledge Online portal, a repository of online information, distance learning tools, e-mail and other resources for 2.6 million Army users. The Web-based service is now part of a broader service known as Defense Knowledge Online."

So what does the military consider to be solid devices for the troops?

(Funny, I have half of that stuff....Army here I come!)

The whole kit (we imagine only one phone of course) can be had for about $1,000.  It's a pretty huge endeveor too by the military, which states:

Each piece of the Go Mobile kit has to meet stringent Defense Department information assurance requirements," Parker said. The project is getting ready for its first phase of deployment for garrison training. The next phase will be the tactical environment, which will require hardening of the equipment to military specifications, including both Mil-Std 810-F and Mil-Std 810-G requirements.

And joking aside, the military is evidently "tech agnostic" as they do plan to look at and roll out iPhone and Android sometime in the future.  But for now, it's all WinMo baby.

[Government Computer News via Federal Computer Week]

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AdMob, which, "serves ads for more than 15,000 mobile Web sites and applications around the world," recently released its October smartphone numbers. [pdf link] And as expected, Windows Mobile isn't exactly causing anyone to faint. The most damning chart shows Windows Mobile with a mere 4 percent of requests (as in hits) from smartphones, compared to 5 percent from WebOS, 12 percent from BlackBerries, 20 percent from Android and a whopping 55 percent from the iPhone.

Really, that's no great surprise. And we'd expect Windows Mobile's numbers to tick up a bit over the November, December and January, after the flurry of phones that hit the market upon launch of Windows Mobile 6.5.

But what's even more intriguing to us is the breakdown of Windows Mobile phones (these aren't Windows phones, as they're not running WinMO 6.5). Take a look at the chart below.

The most recent phones on there: The HTC Snap, at No. 20, with 0.9 percent share of requests. A couple versions of the Samsung Omnia come in at Nos. 6-7, and the Treo Pro's at No. 9. The HTC Touch Pro is at No. 1, and we have to remind ourselves it's not THAT old, but still ... There are some aging (as in gray hair and hearing aids) devices on that list.

And that says to us a couple of things:

1. You guys and gals love your Windows Mobile phones. So much so that you're still rocking last year's (and beyond) devices. Good for you.

2. You have some tough choices ahead of you. Windows Mobile 7 still hasn't been officially announced, and we still don't know exactly what to expect (other than much better hardware). So, to upgrade, or not to upgrade. We'll revisit that soon. In the meantime, sort things out in the comments.

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Microsoft had its annual shareholders meeting on Thursday. And reading the press release, it sounds like the biggest snoozer ever.

But apparently things were a little different if you actually were there. A shareholder questioned Microsoft CEO (grilled may be a better term) Steve Ballmer on why Microsoft seems so much less cool than, say, Apple, especially when it comes to younger users. (Let's see: Exhibits A, B and C come to mind.) And the quote of the day:

"I'm just wondering why your marketing group can't do something to try to rein in this next generation, because you've got a real bad image out there."

No kidding.

Ballmer's probably as tired of that question as we are. Of course, he's in a slightly better position to do something about it. And simply deflecting talk about Windows phones — which absolutely don't get a fair shake — to Windows 7 and Office 2010 is a cop-out. The people want their phones, sir. They want their apps. They want their music. They want their video. And they want it now.

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Microsoft has all the pieces. It's time to put them together and market them smartly. And it's far past time to deliver.

Techflash via Gizmodo

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About those market share numbers ...

It's that time of year when smartphone market share numbers are released, and we see even more stories about the death of one platform or another. Android kills WinMo. Android kills BlackBerry. iPhone kills everybody. (OK, hard to argue with that one.) But whatever.

It's not that the numbers are unimportant. It's just that we could all use a little reminder about context. The chart you see above from Gartner [via Ars Technica] is from the third quarter. Windows Mobile 6.5 and the rebranded "Windows phone" launched in October, thus the corresponding marketing push isn't reflected here.

That said, at least one analyst isn't overly optimistic. From Computer World, which broke down the results and said that Windows Mobile's market share fell 20 percent in Q3:

Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, asked by e-mail today if Windows Mobile will get a boost in the fourth quarter from the new Windows Mobile 6.5, responded: "No, not really ... you might see enough traction that might stabilize the decline."

Not to mince words here, but stabilizing a decline sounds like a "boost" to us. It's all relative. OK, it's still relatively not good, but we'll take stabilizing a 20 percent year over year decline in advance of a presumed major OS announcement (Windows Mobile 7) and subsequent marketing push — see how we keep mentioning marketing?

Personally, I'll take stabilization at this point. Keeping the boat afloat is more important right now as Microsoft continues to position the fleet. Don't worry about one ship trying to outrun the others. Windows Mobile 7. Zune integration in the mobile and Xbox spaces. Windows 7. It's all (hopefully) coming together. The fourth-quarter numbers will be more telling, but we all need to be looking more long-term right now.

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So, what's going on with Samsung?

We're generally not the types who cry that the sky is falling. But there are a few disturbing reports swirling today regarding Samsung. The first comes from Electonista, which states that Sammy will significantly reduce its use of Windows Mobile.

HMC Investment Securities analyst Greg Noh understands that the Korean company's use of Windows Mobile will crash from 80 percent this year to just 50 percent in 2010 and will lower further still in future years. Just 20 percent of Samsung's phones should use the platform by 2012.

That's a huge drop. Word on the street (er, and in just about every blog today) is that Android will pick up a good amount of the slack.

Now add to that Samsung's announcement of its own open development platform, called Bada. (A name that's just ripe for mocking, we know.)

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., a leading mobile phone provider, today announced the launch of its own open mobile platform, Samsung bada [bada] in December. This new addition to Samsung’s mobile ecosystem enables developers to create applications for millions of new Samsung mobile phones, and consumers to enjoy a fun and diverse mobile experience.

Plenty more on that at bada.com.

Now add to that Samsung's current inability to launch the Omnia II line in the United States (for whatever reason) and its half-baked job on the Intrepid, and we have the makings of a full-on exodus, it seems.

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We're about to get into some pretty heavy inside baseball here, so bear with us. Microsoft has given control of licensing and distribution of Windows Mobile to Bsquare and will no longer be handling things itself. From the presser:

Bsquare will begin supporting approximately 30 select Windows Mobile partners with licensing, technical support and go-to-market activities as their current direct agreements with Microsoft end. Bsquare will offer personalized account management and highly-responsive technical support to ensure these Windows Mobile OEMs are successful with current Windows Mobile products.

Why, you ask? Said Daren Mancini, general manager in the OEM division at Microsoft:

“As developers and OEMs expand the number of mobile applications, services and devices, Microsoft is taking a new approach to sell and support Windows Mobile to a broader base of both consumer- and enterprise-focused Windows Mobile customers. Bsquare is uniquely positioned to leverage its deep knowledge of the Windows Mobile operating system, ecosystem and marketplace and serve the broader base of customers with its consultative approach.”

Um, so, why, you ask, would Microsoft not want to handle the licensing of its own product? (And if there's anything Microsoft loves to do, it's license products.) Guesses are all over the map right now.

  • JKontherun opines that it could distance Microsoft from its partners enough to allow it to develop its own hardware. (Something Microsoft has repeatedly said it does not want to do, will not do, and we should all quit asking if it'll do it.)
  • IStartedSomething's Long Zheng offers that it could fuel competition and let Microsoft concentrate on the OS more. He also says that could be the reason for the recent (and very much supposed) crackdown on some of the latest cooked ROMs. Zheng also worries that this could cause even more delays in getting future versions of Windows Mobile (and updates) out the door.

As for us? We're on the fence. We're less worried about delays, given that we know Microsoft is at least thinking about over-the-air updates for its OS, and you wouldn't just hand over control Windows Mobile if you thought the new company would sit on it. So will this this a good thing? (And, like you, we're trying to suppress or feelings of "Can it get much worse?") Only one way to find out.

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So long, Daylight Saving Time

This morning we bid farewell to Daylight Saving Time for another six months or so. Supposedly that meant an extra hour of sleep, but those of us with dogs, kids and a blatant distrust of The Man think that's just a conspiracy to justify that fiery spinning orb in the sky shining through our window at 5:30 a.m.

But we digress.

Anyhoo, your Windows phone should have automatically compensated for the evilness that is falling back an hour. (It can't, however, compensate for whatever evilness you took part in last night for Halloween. You're on your own there.) No muss, no fuss, no silly patches. For most of us.

Microsoft has issued a patch that updates changes other countries have made in their DST policies. If you're in the U.S., you're good. But if you live in/work with/want to go to another country, check out the list of updates (scroll down) and then grab this CAB file, and you're good to go.

Via Smartphone Thoughts

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The same day Motorola declared its undying love for Google's Android operating system (and be sure to check out all the coverage at Android Central), Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, spoke with Forbes [via Giz] about his company's own loyalties. And they continue to spread throughout the smartphone world.

And Chou told Forbes that despite Windows Mobile's stagnation, HTC plans to stick with Microsoft as a partner. And it's not the first time he's done so.

HTC may be updating its brand, but it's sticking by its longtime partner, Microsoft. Though other handset makers such as Motorola have dropped Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system in favor of Android, Chou says HTC has no plans to follow. That doesn't mean he's not frustrated with the software. "Windows Mobile innovation has been a little slow and interest in Windows Mobile phones has been declining," he admits.

HTC's solution is the HD2, a wafer-thin handset that combines a 4.3-inch touchscreen with a high-end processor for snappy downloads and fast Web browsing. The phone, which was unveiled earlier this month, runs the latest version of Windows Mobile (6.5) as well as some flashy HTC software. "We're working hard on these kinds of products to get excitement about Windows Mobile back," says Chou.

As much as we like to complain about certain markets not getting certain phones (i.e. the original Touch HD in the U.S.), would you really want HTC making cookie-cutter phones and handing them to anyone and everyone? HTC is more deliberate than that. Each phone has a purpose. Now we need Windows Mobile to do its part.

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No doubt lots of people are clamoring at the notion that "Windows Mobile is dead" (evidently this crew has moved on from mocking Palm) and what with Motorola on WM hiatus, Palm parting ways, the eternal delay of WM7 and the perhaps too-little-to-late Windows Mobile 6.5, it is easy to see why.

On the other hand there is the stark reality: Microsoft has a lot of licensees (14 to be exact), including most recently LG, which is committed to a reported 50 devices in the next few years. HTC has lots of hits with its Touch series and their increase in market power is unrelenting.

To back this up, iSuppli, which performs market analysis, came out with a report stating that though Microsoft is down right now, it is poised for a strong comeback. It is predicting "a 15.3 percent share of the global market in 2013, second only to the Symbian operating system, which will control 47.6 percent." Basically they're going to bounce from No. 2 to No. 3 this year and back to second-place by 2012.

Expanding on this, Tina Teng, a senior analyst at iSuppli, goes on to correctly note

“To win in today’s environment, a company needs not only an operating system but also device support, an application store, a broad portfolio of applications and support from the developer community. While Windows Mobile is losing some share to competitors in 2009, most of the alternatives cannot match Microsoft’s complete suite of offerings.”

This isn't too hard to fathom either with Ballmer revamping the Windows Mobile team and making it the second top priority for the company. Heck, look at all the Live services (Bing, Mesh, MyPhone), tech previews (Recite, Deepfish), Marketplace, the Chassis-1 specifications, the Orion project, TellMe, gesture navigation, non-touch gestures/Side Sight, Silverlight, free automagic-ness and Windows Mobile 7 looks to be a monster OS with very advanced technology. Now combine all of that with 14 hardware manufacturers, market presence, integration with Windows 7, Xbox and that Zune HD thing. Ka-ching.

Microsoft has all the pieces, now it just has to merge them all into a unified and compelling OS.  One year from now we thing will be very interesting times.

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Finally, after what has seemed like an eternity, Adobe this morning announced Flash Player 10.1 for Windows Mobile (and other smartphones, too) will be available in early 2010. No more Flash Lite. No more need for a proxy browser (though we still think they have their place). Real, live Flash in your mobile browser.

That said, we'll need to see it to believe it. We all know how taxing Flash can be on a desktop system, it's reasonable to believe that only the newer hardware will be able to capably run it. From the Adobe news release:

The browser-based runtime leverages the power of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for accelerated video and graphics while conserving battery life and minimizing resource utilization. New mobile-ready features that take advantage of native device capabilities include support for multi-touch, gestures, mobile input models, accelerometer and screen orientation bringing unprecedented creative control and expressiveness to the mobile browsing experience. Flash Player 10.1 will also take advantage of media delivery with HTTP streaming, including integration of content protection powered by Adobe® Flash® Access 2.0. This effort, code-named Zeri, will be an open format based on industry standards and will provide content publishers, distributors and partners the tools they need to utilize HTTP infrastructures for high-quality media delivery in Flash Player 10.1 and Adobe® AIR® 2.0 software.

Get the full rundown here, and check out of a video of Flash 10.1 on the Toshiba TG01 (which is running a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, btw).

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Surveys and marketing research are important things. Without them, companies would be flying blind.

The Seattle P-I points us to the CFI Group Smartphone Satisfaction Survey [pdf link] of 1,074 people, and the boys and girls in Redmond can't be happy with the results. Results are broken down into the following devices:

  • iPhone
  • Android
  • Pre
  • BlackBerry
  • Treo
  • Other

Ouch. At least the Nokia fans our feeling our pain, as Windows Mobile and Symbian both apparently had such low mindshare as to fall into the "other" category. CFI spells it out:

Throughout this report we have focused on the main ‘branded’ smartphones like iPhone, Android, Pre, BlackBerry,
and Treo. And yet there are many more smartphones in use
today, manufactured by the likes of LG, Samsung, Motorola,
and Nokia, running either the Windows Mobile or Symbian
operating system. What’s going on with these smartphones?

For one thing, many users can’t identify their operating
system. While Android users know they have phone on the
Android platform, most Windows Mobile or Symbian users
have no idea what operating system is running their phone.
This lack of branding and awareness can only hurt the
generic smartphone.

Obviously, that's not good. We're expecting big things from Microsoft with Windows Mobile. We'll repeat it until we're blue in the face: Microsoft has proven it can marry a compelling user interface with sleek and sophisticated hardware with the Zune HD. It for darn sure better do so with Windows Mobile 7 (and we still have to figure out where exactly the Project Pink phones fit in).

And we'll go one further and say that this is the reason Microsoft is pushing the "Windows phone" strategy so hard. Microsoft has some great manufacturers behind Windows phones. HTC. Samsung. Sony Ericsson (for now). LG. Acer. Once upon a time, Palm. But, outside of the Treo line, mindshare is still lacking, as evidenced by this survey. Will Windows Mobile 7 and the whole "Windows phone" strategy begin to turn that around? (And we say "begin" because to expect an iPhone-like response is just not rational, for smartphone manufacturer.) News at 11.

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