Why Does Microsoft Confuse its Windows Mobile Customers?

In response to a blog item about Microsoft Money being unavailable for Windows Mobile devices, reader Marcos asks: Good information but SPB Finance is only compatible with Windows Mobile 5 not smartphone. I had purchased Money 2007 and also SPB Finance and now that I upgraded my cell phone for a smartphone (Dash)I am in trouble with no sync. Any idea how can I have Money 2007 in my Dash?

Before discussing it in detail, let’s see what I wrote in my earlier blog that he is responding to:

If you plan to upgrade to Microsoft Money 2006 or 2007 and use it with your Pocket PC, don’t. According to the Microsoft web page Money for handheld devices and Palm Pilots, Money 2007 will not sync with any Pocket PC version and Money 2006 only synchronizes with Pocket PCs that run versions preceding Windows Mobile 5.

If you want something to help manage your finances on your Pocket PC and can sync with both Microsoft Money and Quicken, take a look at Spb Finance.

It would be easy to play the role of an uppity self-proclaimed expert and diss Marcos for not reading blog or to send him to Microsoft’s web site to explain that the Windows Mobile branding applies to both Pocket PCs and Smartphones. But, I’m aiming the real dissing where it belongs: At Microsoft’s marketing of the Windows Mobile brand and its effort to unify the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms.

Microsoft Windows Mobile consists of two main branches: Pocket PCs with touch screens that may or may not have a cell phone radio (CDMA or GSM) and Smartphones without touch screens and always with some kind of keyboard for dialing and other input. Back when the first generation Smartphone 2002 launched, it was pretty easy to tell the difference between a Pocket PC Phone Edition and a Smartphone. In 2006, we have an entirely different story. Go take a look at a Treo 700w, Motorola Q, T-Mobile Dash, and Samsung BlackJack. Which ones are Pocket PC Phone Edition devices and which ones are Smartphones? Ding! Yep, only the Treo 700w is a Phone Edition among this very similar looking bunch of devices. No wonder Marcos is confused. Even Cingular appears to be confused. Take a look at their product page for the BlackJack. Their ad copy for the phone Mobile Word, Excel, and PowerPoint support. And, yet, Microsoft doesn’t provide those applications for their Smartphones. It may have a reader/displayer for those files, but you can’t edit Word or Excel documents on a Smartphone using Microsoft applications.With Windows Mobile 5, Microsoft even changed the bottom of the screen to require two giant softkeys at the bottom tied to two hardware buttons for both the Pocket PC and Smartphone. This took away an enourmous amount of screen real estate from developers who had used that bar of pixels to display menus, status, and other useful information. Now, we just have two giant softkeys wasting space most of the time on a Pocket PC device.

The Pocket PC/Phone Edition and Smartphone should be clearly differentiated so that people like Marcos and the vast majority of customers don’t need to become Windows Mobile experts to figure out which device they should buy and use. This lack of product differentiation is biting a lot of disappointed consumers. Look at my response to Meg’s question just a few blog items ago: Office Mobile for a Smartphone?

This is basically the same issue Marcos faces: People who are interested in or already bought a Windows Mobile Smartphone when they really need a Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition. Why? Because most Windows Mobile Smartphones that were sold prior to the Motorola Q didn’t have QWERTY keyboards. That made them less than useful for applications that are data-entry intensive like Word, Excel, and Money from Microsoft as well as many third party applications. This means you don’t see as many data-entry intensive applications for the Smartphone since their numbers are probably still small compared to the Smartphones with more traditional dialpads.

So, Marcos. Please read my text again. There is NO Microsoft Money 2006 or 2007 compatible with ANY Windows Mobile 5 platform. And, if you want to perform that kind of task with a 3rd party application like Spb Finance, you should look at a Pocket PC Phone Edition or Pocket PC (no phone), not a Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone device like the T-Mobile Dash.