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INITIAL INPUT: One step forward and two steps back for Windows Mobile?
Posted by Carlo Guerrero - on Wednesday, 12.10.05 - 14:20:42 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 11184x
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Ever since the first pen-entry PDA OS of Microsoft came out, there seems to be something good that keeps on getting dumped everytime a new OS version appears. I pretty much enjoyed the functionality of Windows CE 2.01 on the Palm-size PC way back in 1999 prior to the release of the Pocket PC. It offered a Windows 95/98 feel to it and it gave me great flexibility with the built-in Contacts application. The nice thing was that it synchronized pretty well using ActiveSync too and with Outlook. I used to use Schedule+ for it but with a new Pocket PC at hand, upgrading to Outlook was a no-brainer.

Of course there were so many things which Windows CE 2.01 didn't have which was offered by the newer Windows CE 3.0 based Pocket PCs. There were so many functions which were finally included by default which meant that it was unnecessary to hack the registry to get it to work with a mobile phone via Infrared. Windows CE 2.01 had a wonderful calendar display. It showed analog clocks in the month view of the calendar to tell you which part of the day was busy and which part was not. This was totally deleted from the Pocket PC calendar to show a simplistic box display to inform you whether the appointment was in the morning, afternoon or the whole day. It no longer gave you a useful reference for your daily activities. It was a giant leap forward but Microsoft somehow staggered a few steps back to get the other features to us.

I remember having a plug-in that would allow me to jump to "Today" easily and not to whatever day my calendar was opened to last. This was a feature I truly miss. Now everytime I select the calendar on the Pocket PC, it opens to the last opened day (this happens when you view another date other than today without having the calendar refresh through midnight). Well, at least with that old clunker, I could easily open up to "Today" in an instant.

Then came the change from Pocket PC to Pocket PC 2002. Things looked great until repeating alarms wouldn't repeat at all. This also saw the change to a supposedly better Inbox which also integrated the SMS inbox for Phone Edition devices. It all sounded great until I found that I could no longer manually transfer selected email to and fro my Pocket PC's Inbox and my Outlook Inbox. This was a feature I enjoyed with Outlook and ActiveSync and while the icon is still there called Windows CE Inbox Transfer, it has since been a very useless feature.

Some software developers were even able to integrate SMS (via Infrared from a mobile phone) into the old Pocket PC Inbox thereby creating a unified Inbox for Email and SMS. This too went into the dustbin when the updated Inbox came in with Pocket PC 2002. Windows Mobile 2003 came in and is somehow better.

I'm not sure how many people here use Policies with their Pocket PCs or the Pocket PCs they field into the enterprise, but the Policy settings of Pocket PC 2002 had some features set by default. This included prevention of running applications stored in the storage card, prevention of installing applications via ActiveSync and the like. Well, it was something which somehow disappeared in Windows Mobile 2003. While it's not something everyone would actually do, and it's a feature built into Windows Mobile which Microsoft may not fully support, it may still prove to be a bit useful in some instances. With Windows Mobile 2003, some registry keys will have to be manually entered for the feature to work.

Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition comes in with bigger and better features. We get instant landscape capability, better PIE, and all those small things. But, we lose one alarm slot for the clock.

All these appear to be minor setbacks which are rather insignificant once you view the improvements made to the Windows Mobile platform. But with the latest one right now seems to have some large chunks of useful features omitted in favor for some of the things we've clamored for. Windows Mobile 5 comes in with great features. We get Word Mobile replacing the anemic Pocket Word. Embedded items and formatting now remain intact even if the document is edited. Definitely this brings good news to those who work on Word. But has anyone noticed that you can no longer draw in Word Mobile? In Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, Pocket Word has the options: Writing, Drawing, Typing, and Recording. Where are they now with Word Mobile? Did I just miss it being overly excited handling a Windows Mobile 5 device?

Another big step back is the missing ActiveSync features such as Network ActiveSync via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, etc. due to security issues. Would we see this back in future versions of ActiveSync 4 or is this the end of the network savvy Windows Mobile device? Hopefully things fall back into place soon.

I know the Windows Mobile team has been working so hard in order to bring us a better product each time they release something, but it would be nice if they didn't have to cut corners and lose the very features that have made Windows Mobile such a great device. Yes, it is human nature to want more, to be able to do more... but doing more and getting more hopefully doesn't mean giving up something as useful or as important. What I'd like to see happen is to have the next Windows Mobile device move forward with nary a step back.

Do you miss Microsoft Money for the Pocket PC? How about having MS Reader built-in?

Mabuhay! ~ Carlo

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