How To Fix Windows Mobile?

Paul Thurrott wrote an article commenting on another article about fixing Windows Mobile. I typically enjoy Paul Thurrott’s commentaries, and I used to like to listen to his “Windows Weekly” podcast with Leo LaPorte. I discontinued listening at one point when the TWIT network podcasts started getting longer and consisted more of rambling than any real information about their subjects, including Windows Weekly. Also at that point I needed to trim some podcasts in iTunes as I didn’t have time to listen to them all and they were starting to pile up.

Can Windows Mobile be “fixed”, or does it need to be “fixed”? I honestly don’t see Windows Mobile going away. I think that people are a little bit, uhm, silly when they write of a world with only one Smartphone platform. There are people who seem to think that one day, Apple will conquer the market and we’ll all be using iPhones. I honestly don’t see that. I’m sure that the iPhone will gain in market share, and I’m probably going to have one someday. There are still people and businesses that prefer Windows Mobile or BlackBerry. Some people just want a dumb phone: a phone that does little more than makes calls but makes calls well. I don’t think it’s very smart to assume that one platform will become dominant and everything else will fall by the wayside, but I guess it’s human nature, it tells people what they want to hear, and it sells advertising thereby keeping people employed

Back to Windows Mobile. Is it even “broken”? Windows Mobile has several advantages as a platform, but those also make for some real disadvantages. My original Samsung Epix turned into a real circle jerk when I had some problems with the phone and NOBODY would take responsibility for it. I called Samsung. They told me to call AT&T. AT&T suggested that maybe it’s Microsoft’s problem, but told me to go to the store I bought it from. The store said I had to call warranty. Warranty told me the store could handle it. I had to get warranty to talk to the store to tell them that they can handle it, and I got a replacement. In the case of Apple, if you have a problem with the iPhone, you can take it to an Apple store. They won’t jerk you around as much because there are fewer hands in the pot.

I think that Windows Mobile has two significant problems. One problem is that there are way too many hands in the pot. Microsoft develops the core operating system, then ships it to the OEMs. The OEMs then build devices and develop drivers for the operating system to interface with those devices. They also have to put in software from the carrier, which is why my Epix has all kinds of pointless AT&T malls and music and video shortcuts in the Programs folder. The carrier will often add some applications and services, as well as occasionally lock out some native functionality as well. One of Microsoft’s strengths has always been that they encourage third party development. Now, when you have a problem with a Windows Mobile device, it’s not as simple as blaming Microsoft, because it might not be their fault. It could be a bad driver by the developer. Maybe AT&T or Sprint added some crapware that crashes the phone. Maybe it’s a 3rd party program you’re using. I bought the Celio Redfly when I had my BlackJack II. When I returned the BlackJack for the Epix, I found that Celio doesn’t officially support the Epix. I found another driver so I can still use my Redfly, but when I’m using it, I get all kinds of bugs. I tend to have to install and uninstall the Redfly driver frequently.

The other problem that Windows Mobile suffers from is too much emphasis on “business”. As business and home merge together, it helps to have a serious communications device that will also allow you to read books and perhaps watch movies and listen to music. I never would have needed an iPod if I could have, at the time, found a way to sync from iTunes to Windows Mobile or if Windows Media Player 11 could actually transfer content to a device worth a damn. Sorry for the strong language, but I’ve written before that Microsoft apparently sees it’s media customer as those gyrating silhouettes from the iPod commercials rather than real people who expect to do a little more with a media library than “listen to songs, dude!” When I did use my Pocket PC to listen to podcasts, I had to manually transfer each file and manually delete them when I was done. iPod + iTunes is a heck of a lot easier. Windows Media Player sucks. Windows Media Player 10 Mobile blows. I wish I could delete it from ROM to get back the memory it’s wasting.

The best thing that Microsoft could do to save Windows Mobile is NOT TO LISTEN TO A THING JOURNALISTS SAY. Remember this piece when Gary Krakaw said that Apple should license Windows Mobile or the BlackBerry OS if they expected to make it in the Smartphone market? Journalists serve a very vital function, but many of them are not journalists because they’ve had successful careers as programmers or technology businessmen. I’m just saying…When a journalist tries to tell a tech company to do something, I think the tech company should respond accordingly. “Thank you for your advice, now go work on your next column.


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