What's NOT Wrong With Windows Mobile

Now that's not a sarcastic question, more of a response to a blog entry written on Gizmodo by Jason Chen called What's Wrong With Windows Mobile. Now I'm not particularly going to defend Microsoft over what is essentially a clunky system, but Jason's post is factually wrong in many areas and I feel these should be addressed.

Let's take Jason's points in the order he makes them.

1. Its hard to multitask. Sorry Jason, but its really not. In any application you can tap the Start menu icon or press the Windows key and jump to any of the last six applications you've had open or up to nine others on the Start menu. Its possibly the biggest redeeming factor in the Windows Mobile interface.

2. Closing a program doesn't close it. It can do - a tap and hold on the X button, but more importantly why worry about what does and doesn't happen. Since WM5 Microsoft have pretty much cracked the memory management side of things and programs minimise or close as necessary.

3. Different builds work differently. Hardly surprising as one supports touch screen interfaces and the other is all keypad based. And the argument that tablet and desktop pcs work the same is spurious - you're still using a point and click metaphor on both. And its not as if many users are going to be switching between a Pro and Standard device regularly enough that they'll confuse themselves is it?

4. Calling is difficult. Really? Here's how it works, from anywhere in the OS hit the green call button then either key a number or select from your list of contacts, hit dial and boom! you're making a phone call. I struggle to see how it could get any easier (in fact its noticeably more difficult on the iPhone for example).

The complaints about the UI are, of course, entirely personal. I've always thought it functional rather than pretty, but its certainly an acceptable method for interacting a phone which offers so many more possible usage scenarios than competitive devices. Jason's main argument is that the swipes and slides of the iPhone are missing, but that assumes Microsoft were in the market for customers looking for eye candy - which they weren't, although they may now be.

Ultimately Windows Mobile has been surpassed in three areas, UI, web browsing and media, but as handset manufacturers have dropped their customisations on top of WM the former is less of an issue; and the arrival of Opera 9.5 as a de facto standard browser for new WM devices the latter is also less of an issue. Media handling is something of a joke and needs to be sorted out, but there are alternative players around which even the most basic of user would soon find their way too.

I don't think anyone would argue that Microsoft have been outplayed on the mobile front over the last year, but dig down into the real usage and the gap isn't as big as some would have you believe. Were I to have my iPhone forcibly removed tomorrow I would be upset naturally, but going back to a Windows Mobile handset wouldn't really cause me any worry.


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