I’m not sure when they added this, but the Microsoft 10 consumer video blogging site (sort of a consumer version of Microsoft’s Channel9 site for developers) added the option to download video in the Zune format. It also provides versions for the Apple iPod, Sony PSP, as well as WMV (Windows Media Video).
The Microsoft Windows Mobile platform turns 10 years old next week (more on this topic next week). Mike Calligaro’s most recent blog item which bravely (Mike blogs about a lot of hot button topics on behalf of Microsoft) tries to explain Microsoft’s rationale for removing the ability to use ActiveSync over Ethernet (wired or wireless) reminded me of an interesting fact about Windows Mobile: It may be one of the few products that actually lost functions across a series of upgrades. Let’s take a look at just the features I can remember losing in no particular order (I don’t claim this is a comprehensive list. So, feel free to let me know about lost features I neglect to mention).
- ActiveSync over Ethernet
- Microsoft Access Database Importation
- Printing (with add-on driver)
- Microsoft Reader
- Creating a Media Player Playlist on the Device Itself
- Ability to Manually Disconnect from ActiveSync while connected over USB
- AvantGo Reader in firmware
- Menus at the bottom of the screen (replaced by two giant soft-buttons)
- Ability to add to Tasks on the device (Smartphone)
- Ability to encrypt Word or Excel documents/spreadsheets
- Backup entire device to PC using ActiveSync
- Pocket Money (add-on Microsoft application)
- Pocket Streets (add-on Microsoft application)
The Windows Mobile Pocket PC (perhaps soon to disappear in non-phone configurations based on sales declines) and Smartphone are still my mobile devices of choice. But, even with explanations from people like Microsoft’s Mike Calligaro about various design choices, it is difficult for an ordinary end-user like me to understand why I’m losing features and options (even software add-ons) which each new Windows Mobile generation of devices.
Reader P.L. asks: I just purchased a Treo 700W from Verizon. Excel Mobile will not let me save updates to most of the Excel files that I have synced to the handheld. It gives me a window that says unsupported content and formatting will be lost if I save the workbook and then it will not let me save it. I’m forced into a ‘Save As’ function. I cannot figure out what is unsupported and cannot find any documentation on the subject. Can you help?
I’m guessing a few details are missing from this story and will assume the following additional details…
- The problem spreadsheets were created using a full version of Excel on a desktop or notebook.
- This spreadsheet was copied to the Pocket PC Phone Edition (Treo 700w)
- The spreadsheet was modified (new data and/or change existing data in cells)
If this is the case, then this is, believe it or not, normal (though undesirable). Word Mobile and Excel Mobile only provide small subsets of the features available in the full version for Windows XP. And, despite years of pleading from many users (including me), neither Mobile application provides what is called non-destructive round-tripping. So, if you use, for example, unsupported features like macros or unsupported statistical functions on the original version created using the full version of Excel 2003, these features will not be preserved if the spreadsheet is modified on the Pocket PC and then saved back to the same file.
The workaround is to adopt a workflow model that takes this into account. For example, let’s say we have an Excel 2003 spreadsheet file named FOO.XLS. Instead of copying it directly to the Pocket PC, we make a copy named FOO-MOBILE.XLS on the desktop first. This renamed copy is copied over to the Pocket PC where it is worked on. When saving the modified spreadsheet back to the Pocket PC, you can ignore the warning and save it. This modified FOO-MOBILE.XLS is then copied back to the desktop PC where the data can either be manually or automatically (using additional macros or VBA scripts) merged back into the original version.
I am not pleased with this situation either. A number of people including me have been telling Microsoft’s Windows Mobile product management group that it is critical to have non-destructive round-tripping for Excel Mobile and Word Mobile. However, we have always been told that major customers have not identified this as a high priority issue. If this is an issue for you (as it is for me), you should definitely let Microsoft know through your Microsoft account executives, at conferences, or the Microsoft wish request.
CNET lists their…
- 7.7 – Palm Treo 700p
- 8.0 – Cingular 8525
- 8.0 – T-Mobile Dash
- 6.6 – Nextel i930 by Motorola
- 7.0 – Sprint PCS PPC-6700
- 7.3 – Nokia E62
It is interesting that half of this list is based on Windows Mobile (Cingular/Sprint devices are based on the HTC Wizard Pocket PC Phone Edition while the T-Mobile Dash is a Windows Mobile Smartphone). The three Windows Mobile devices have an average Editor’s rating of 7.67 while the other three devices average out at 7.2.
(with apologies to Lennon & McCartney)…
It’s not unusual to see me taking notes in a meeting with just a Pocket PC (with a thumb keyboard or add-on keyboard) although I will take a notebook too depending on what needs to be done at the meeting. But, I rarely see other people take anything other than a notebook (I also rarely see Tablet PCs for that matter).
Fellow Microsoft Windows Mobile MVP Jaap van Ekris asks Can a PocketPC replace a laptop in real life? on his Modern Nomads website. Jaap reaches the conclusion that agrees with the original philosophy of the Windows CE team way back when the Handheld PC was introduced 10 years ago: Ultramobile devices are PC Companions.
That didn’t stop another friend and also a Microsoft Windows Mobile MVP Bev Howard from turning that idea on its head though. If you really want to travel with just a Pocket PC, head over to Bev’s site where he provides The Minimalist Road Warrior’s Guide to Traveling Light” using a PocketPC. If you want to just leave your notebook behind while on Travel, Bev lets you know what you need to do and what you need to take with you to stay mobile while, well, being mobile.
Microsoft’s Windows Live Barcode site touts using Denso’s QR Code. QR Code is a 2d matrix barcode that can store more information than other kinds of barcodes currently in use. Microsoft’s website lets you create a QR Code barcode (you can see mine here) and says they will provide a reader for handsets to use them. However, the site does not have any download just yet. QR Code has been around since 1994. It will be interesting to see if it finally catches on because of this apparently new push from Microsoft.
Google released a Java Midlet Gmail client for mobile devices today. So, of course, right off the bat it doesn’t work with my Dell Axim X50v (Windows Mobile 2003 2nd Edition) or T-Mobile SDA (Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone). My i-Mate K-JAM (Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PC Phone Edition) has a Java runtime, however. So, I was able to install and test it there. Couple of thoughts.
- The fonts look horrible on he 240×320 LCD. The fonts are small and jaggy (aliased).
- The scrollbar on the right is razor thin. I guess this is ok on a phone/smartphone device. But, it is difficult to grab with a stylus on a PDA type device. Of course, the navigation buttons work on a Pocket PC. So, I could use it instead of a stylus. But, when I am using a stylus, I don’t want to have to put it down just to scroll a page.
- Navigation through a threaded message list is fast. But the navigation is not as intuitive as it could be. Clicking on a thread item’s tab expands or collapses it. But, it is not immediately obvious.
- The menus look ok when my K-JAM is used in portrait mode but are truncated at the bottom when I’m using it in landscape mode (keyboard pulled out).
Google should go back to the drawing board for this one. They should also take a good look at the Yahoo! Mobile web interface. Yahoo’s mobile web interface is a relatively simple HTML one that seems to work with everything, is easy to understand, and look fine on pretty much any screen.
Microsoft’s Jason Langridge (AKA Mr. Mobile!) wrote an overview of the Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) that replaces ActiveSync in Windows Vista. He also provides a bunch of screenshots. So, head over to his blog to get the details.
The Microsoft Windows Marketplace lets you filter and sort in a number of ways. If you filter on Pocket PC and sort by price, you can find the free downloads for a Pocket PC.
I use Microsoft’s Live.com as my default Internet Explorer 7 home page. Its tabbed page interface and hover over text expansion work great on my desktop and notebook PCs. The Mobile Live Beta is interesting but loses everything but the main page. Clicking More… just takes me to the current Windows Live mobile page which is a rehash of the MSN Mobile page. The Mobile Windows Live portal can be a great resource once they get more of the info from the desktop version and navigation that isn’t totally tied to a phone-centric interface (i.e., don’t forget the larger Pocket PC form factor).
SoftMaker is taking pre-orders for their SoftMaker Office for Pocket PCs which bundles TextMaker 2006 (word processor) and PlanMaker 2006 (spreadsheet). Although Microsoft provides Word Mobile and Excel Mobile for Pocket PCs, SoftMaker’s offerings were much more full featured and closer to the desktop Office versions that Microsoft offerings the last time I took a close look a few years ago. If the firmware based Microsoft products lack some of the functions you would like to have on a Pocket PC, take a look at this bundle.
PHM Pocket PC PowerToys have not been updated since April 2004. But, you know what? They still work with Windows Mobile 5 Pocket PCs. The two freeware powertoys I use are the PHM Suspend and PHM Reset PowerToys. Why? Years ago, the power button on my Compaq iPAQ 3650 broke. I decided not to tempt the fates after that and started using Suspend to turn off the remaining Pocket PCs and the other buttons to turn on the Pocket PCs.