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5 years ago

Google Search Today Screen Plug in Now Available

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W00t! Over at the Google Blog, the fine folks at Microsoft's latest arch-enemy have created a simple today screen plug in (should work fine on both Standard and Pro) to initiate a Google Search. Palm's WM Treos have had this for a long time and folks lucky enough to get the real Windows Live have has the Live search box available to them, but this seem to be the first time (from a major company) that you can just simply download a plug-in for free and get that necessary search field on your Today screen.

...In other words, you'll be faster than anybody else at the bar to figure out just what the “B” in “B.A. Baracus” stands for. Go ahead, folks, Pity the Fool. Download the plug in by pointing your Windows Mobile device's browser to http://mobile.google.com

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5 years ago

Mobile March Madness

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Mobile March Madness

With March Madness fully underway, many of us are looking for ways to stay up-to-date with what is happening in the world of college basketball. Here is a look at some of the ways you can use your Windows Mobile phone towards that end.

  • Web browser - Many of the major names in sports news (ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sportsline, etc.) have made improvements to their mobile websites. My suggestion is try them all, see which one you like the most.
  • Text messages/Email - Most of the sites mentioned above offer some sort of alert service. The advantage of this obviously is that if you don
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5 years ago

Silverlight for Windows Mobile Demo Videos

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5 years ago

Dell Smartphone Rumors Ramping Up

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Dell Smartphone Rumors Ramping Up

Tough to believe, but it's been over a year since Dell announced that they were killing off the Axim PDA line. When that happened, we noted that Dell had also hired on Ron Garriques, a former Motorola executive. That move seemed to hint that Dell was thinking about starting up a line of Windows Mobile Smartphones. Smartphones obviously make a lot more sense in today's market, as PDAs are pretty much all but dead these days.

Throw another log into that rumor fire, as Digitimes is reporting that Dell has partnered up with manufacturer Foxconn. The supposed products are to be

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5 years ago

Windows Mobile Coming to Mini Tablets?

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Here's a new terms for you: MIDS, or Mobile Internet Devices. They're someplace between a UMPC and a Windows Mobile smartphone. Think mini-tablet. Think HTC Advantage. Think something that runs Windows Mobile, that does the sorts of things you need a bigger screen for without the power-comsumption and hassles of a full PC.

Think we'll be seeing more of them soon, if ZDNet's Mary Joe Foley's post about Microsoft's latest hire is right. See, Microsoft just hired Len Kawell, whose job description is interesting indeed:

Kawell is defining the application model for occasionally connected rich Internet applications in the mobile environment. He is also responsible for scaling Windows Mobile to new kinds of kinds of devices with larger screens and faster processors – also known as Mobile Internet Devices, or MIDs.

I've always found the HTC Advantage interesting but not quite what I'm looking for. Thin it up a bit, maybe drop that keyboard (I prefer a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard), and you're looking at something that could be pretty compelling. Windows Mobile is certainly powerful enough to make a MIDS a UMPC-Killer, but the question is whether or not the market for UMPCs and MIDS is big enough to warrant it. Is is something that interests you?

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5 years ago

How-To: Hardware Shortcuts: Blackjack Edition

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5 years ago

How's that Mogul Update Treating You?

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When we heard that the Mogul updated was coming, we were excited. When we heard that the Mogul update had arrived, we partied like we always do when there's a ROM Update (yes, we are nerds). EVDO Rev A. (first ever!) and GPS will do that to you.

However, just like when we party too hard in real life, we're hearing that some folks are experiencing a bit of a post-update hangover. Sure, EVDO Rev A is rockin', but as we feared the GPS is a little wonky. Fortunately, it doesn't require a com port hack like the BlackJack II and the Q9h do (but really those folks just need to download MoDaCo's GPS Config). Unfortunately, some folks in our forums are reporting that the GPS has the nasty little habit of randomly turning off, or not turning on, and so on.

Our very own HobbesIsReal hooks us up with the config detail on how to get GPS going and

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5 years ago

HTC, MSDN Get Overhauled Websites

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HTC, MSDN Get Overhauled Websites

It's the calm before the storm. CTIA's Spring convention is coming in just a couple of short weeks and we're expecting big things (like Windows Mobile 6.1?). WMExperts will be there to keep you apprised of all the excitement, so no fretting about that. In the meantime, news in the Windows Mobile world might slow down a wee bit. No worries, though, we've got reviews and howtos aplenty to keep you busy.

Still and all, what's a news junky to do? How about check out some newly redesigned sites in the WM ecosystem? HTC's site has a new look -- you should definitely head over and sign up for their e-club to be able to grab updates for your device. Also sporting a new look is Microsoft's Windows Mobile Developer Center. It's always been chock-full of development tips and tricks, now they're just easier to find.

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5 years ago

Review: Blueant v12 Bluetooth Headset

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5 years ago

Review: Samsung WEP410 Bluetooth Headset

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5 years ago

Review: Mobi Products Skin Case for BlackJack II

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5 years ago

The Windows Mobile Interface

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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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5 years ago

Microsoft Licenses Flash Lite for Windows Mobile

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Looks like, in addition to Silverlight, Flash Lite will be rolled directly into Windows Mobile by year's end, per MacWorld [via pocketnow]:

Microsoft has licensed Adobe Flash Lite, the Flash Player runtime for mobile devices, so that Windows Mobile phone users can view Flash content in the browser. Microsoft has also licensed the Adobe Reader LE software, so that Windows Mobile users will be able to view PDFs.

We've been pretty pro-Silverlight here at WMExperts, less so with Flash. You're much better off implementing an awesome Full YouTube on Windows Mobile Hack than mucking around with the anemic Flash Lite (although, yes, it will support video). Silverlight seems like it has much more potential as a platform for mobile devices than the resource-intensive Flash and it's weaker little brother, Flash Lite. Let's hope that:

  1. Flash Lite as implemented on Windows Mobile doesn't turn mobile browsing into a slow, punch-the-monkey-ad-filled, and generally painful experience.
  2. Flash Lite doesn't smuggle in the slightly troubling back-door cookie problem that Flash has brought to the desktop.

Yes, we want a better browser on Windows Mobile - but “a better browser” doesn't mean Flash, mmkay? At least Silverlight is coming first - as early as this Spring!

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5 years ago

Another Treo 800w sighting...this time for Verizon!

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Well, file this under "speculation" or course but we thinks the info is quite accurate although admittedly not earth shattering.

Treofficial in our forums informs us he had a meeting with some Palm sales people recently where he was able to actually handle the Verizon Treo 800w (see our past coverage). So far, he can confirm that it does indeed have

  • Wifi
  • EvDO Rev. A
  • Threaded SMS (w00t!)

In addition we learn that the Today Screen is pretty much unchanged (bad Palm) but they have added a new "search email" function which mirrors the search contact feature on the today screen e.g. you type a few letters and that filters through your presumably long collection of email messages, narrowing down the one you are trying to find (which at least confirms that the 800w runs Windows Mobile 6.0).

Of course, we are still not sure if the threaded SMS is the Palm version or the side effect of just having WM 6.1, which is an OS that would not be unexpected on this device.

Hopefully Treofficial will pop back in and continue to answer some questions so follow along in our thread!

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5 years ago

HTC Patent Shows New Kind of Slider

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HTC Patent Shows New Kind of Slider

Dig this new HTC patent [via via Unwired View, who also composited the image above from the patent] for a new smartphone design. The basic idea - get a dual slider without having to actually build two keyboards. Looks pretty slick, though I'm not personally a fan -- the whole point of a slider is to be able to completely hide the keyboard behind the screen. With this method, the keyboard is always exposed, you just get to pick the parts that are showing at any given time.

Still and all, it's been awhile since we've seen a genuinely new form factor on a smartphone -- this qualifies.

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