time ago - in the last century - "The Net is the Computer" has become the
corporate motto of Sun Microsystems and as much as the .COM hype faded away,
also this motto isn't used by Sun anymore. Nevertheless, it seems that the (Inter)Net
isn't the next computer now but the mobile phone in your pocket.
First one was Nokia who gave their N-series devices the surname "Multimedia
Computer". Now it's Microsoft which wants to make your mobile phone a cheap
computer. No, the mobile phone (maybe your next Windows Mobile Standard or
Professional smartphone) isn't competing with the 100 Dollar Notebook initiative
but Microsoft wants to make mobile phones even smarter; that's at least what
Microsoft has in his mind when they talk about the "Fone+" initiative.
During the WinHEC Conference, Microsoft's Research chief
Craig Mundie said he wants to encourage phone manufacturers to formalize the
transition of the phone to a mobile PC.
Mundie said that Microsoft has a research project called "Fone+" that would
allow the phone to work with a TV as a secondary display and one that could
allow video stored on the device to be played back on the television. For
Microsoft, the challenge is extending the PC platform into new applications and
"There's no reason that if this thing were hooked up to a large display that we
couldn't watch video in this environment," Mundie said.
Well, I'm not sure if
such a feature needs a complete new project but one thing is clear - many (non
Microsoft) mobile phones can do this already (playing a video on TVs) and even
some Microsoft-based smartphones, like the HTC Athena aka HTC X7500
Advantage/T-Mobile Ameo, can playback video on a TV. And all these devices can
do even more like displaying photos on the TV or streaming music to a HiFi. Indeed, it's good to see that Microsoft wants to make its (Windows Mobile? )
phones smarter but "Fone+" sounds to me like a buzz-word, like "The Net is the
Computer" was a (brilliant) buzz-motto during the .COM hype.
Quite frankly, we have everything in place now and as much as Nokia's N-series
devices are sold as "Multimedia Computer" already, as much are Windows Mobile
smartphones ready to be sold under the same label as well. Some Windows Mobile
smartphones even features 600+ MHz fast CPUs, others features NVidia graphic
cards, and others features 8 GB hard drives while some others sporting an
inbuilt VGA screen (which is even good enough for PAL or NTSC output already).
So where's the point to combine all this into a small form factor, giving such a
device a strong enough battery and adding a TV-out port? And if you add some
cool place-shift software (like WebGuide4 which can even use the inbuilt Windows
Media Player) or Sling Media SlingPlayer Mobile, you can even watch live TV on a
TV without having an antenna connected to the TV!
What we need now are intuitive GUIs to make using such a device as easy to use
as possible. A good example is the Portable Media Center platform (which
unfortunately died). It had a Media Center PC-like GUI which was extremely easy
to use. It contained a TV-out and I've often used my PMC to playback recorded TV
programs or ripped DVDs on a different TV just by connecting the PMC with the
Still, I'm a little
bit lost what "Fone+" should and will be but let us hope it will be something
great and useful for the consumer. In the meantime enjoy using your Windows
Mobile (or any other smart) smartphone to do exactly the same today.
Cheers ~ Arne