Microsoft introduced during the Mobile World Congress MSN Direct for Windows
Mobile; which is designed to give you instant access to information such as
weather, stocks, top news stories, entertainment news, sports news, business
news and more. Yet available in a technology Beta, MSN Direct for Windows Mobile
is available for Windows Mobile Standard smartphones only and pretty much U.S.
centric, which makes sense since the original MSN Direct service never left
North America but was always available for U.S. residents only.
And because the news sources are there already and used for MSN Direct as well
as MSN itself, the MSN Direct team decided to develop its own Windows Mobile
client to give Windows Mobile users similar information as SPOT watch users get.
Like on the SPOT watch, content is automatically pushed and updated to give you
a fast overview about the latest news.
As said, the MSN Direct service is available as a so called "Technology
Preview" but already supports Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphones and Windows Mobile
6 Standard smartphones. A touchscreen version is planned but not yet available.
Users can download the 450 KB application straight from the smartphone where it
should be installed and after the installation, the application changes the
Standard smartphone Home screen by adding MSN Direct which is presented in a
glanceable format and is easily accessible.
Microsoft does not charge anything for the download or use of MSN Direct for
Windows Mobile but the use of MSN Direct requires data connectivity (GPRS, EDGE,
UMTS, HSDPA, EV-DO, whatever) from your wireless carrier which may charge
After the installation, MSN Direct adds a new panel to the Home screen which
offers the following topics:
Top Stories: Keep up with current news and get breaking news from
Weather: Get the latest weather for your city.
Stocks: Manage your money on the go with stock quotes, news and more.
World News: Get the latest round-up in international news from MSNBC
Sports: Stay on top of the latest sports news.
Entertainment: Take a break and catch up on celebrity gossip and
To switch between MSN Direct channels, press left or right on the D-Pad:
This works when you're on the home screen (as above) as well as when you're
in full screen mode:
However, if you are a current SPOT watch user, you might have noticed that
this is just a subset of the available MSN Direct services for watches which
Traffic: Create custom routes that you want to track, and you'll see
how fast traffic is moving along your route. You may also receive reports of
traffic impacting incidents, such as accidents, construction, road closures, and
Movies: Stay up to date with the latest from Hollywood! Add Movies to
your channel lineup and get a list of the current movies showing in your area
with show times as well as a list of your local theaters that includes each
movie playing and its show time-
Local Events: Stay in touch with the latest local arts and
entertainment events in a city near you. You can choose from 27 different event
categories (including concerts, art exhibits, festivals, and plays) and have up
to 20 events per day.
Fun Trivia and Facts: Break up your day with trivia and fun facts -
such as word of the day, quote of the day, on this day in history, and born on
Horoscopes: Receive daily horoscopes for the astrological signs you
want to track.
Lottery: Get the latest lottery numbers sent to your watch. Choose your
favorite games available in your area and receive the drawing results
Outlook Calendar Appointments: View appointments and personal
datebook entries from Microsoft Outlook and get times and locations for the
events that are important to you.
Messages: Receive personal messages from your MSN Messenger list of
family and friends.
Sure, Outlook appointments and Windows Live Messenger messages doesn't makes
any sense since Windows Mobile has Outlook Mobile and Windows Live Messenger
Mobile installed anyway but traffic information as well as the other channels
might be interesting for some of you anyway.
Nevertheless, the existing channel information looks pretty similar to SPOT
watches (and similar devices) except that MSN Direct for Windows Mobile supports
colors as well as featuring images and even photos. But, a big difference to the
one way receiving MSN Direct devices is that MSN Direct for Windows Mobile also
offers a back-channel (via GPRS/UMTS) which means you can click on a headline to
get more information. This opens the Internet Explorer Mobile which connects to
the referring article at MSN:
That's indeed a nice combination of push and pull which reminds somehow on
WAP push where you receive teaser messages as well, including a link.
Nevertheless, here it works automated (and silently in the background) and MSN
Direct takes care your smartphone is updated regularly.
Nevertheless, some of the channels above can also be customized, for instance
you can select the city from which you want to get the weather forecast as well
as your stock portfolio allows you to add your own symbols or News which allows
to select the topic you get displayed (incl. World, Sports, Entertainment,
Business, Travel, Tech, Health and News of the Weird). But you cannot further
drilldown the general topics, for instance Sports news to Football, Baseball or
Basketball news only.
So all together the service works quite well, even if I haven't figured out
yet how much data it consumes.
First of all, I like the idea of MSN Direct and the fact, that it is a
consumer-focused service. While Exchange pushes s E-Mails to Windows Mobile
smartphones, MSN Direct for Windows Mobile pushes consumer orientated
information to Windows Mobile smartphones, giving the user a fast and quick
overview about the latest news. And since MSN Direct for Windows Mobile is yet
available as a technology preview only it hasn't have to be perfect today.
But I found several inconsistencies like managing information channels. While
SPOT watches are configured through a web frontend, it makes sense that a
Windows Mobile smartphone can be configured from the device itself. However, it
would be even nicer if it could be also configured and especially synchronized
with other MSN Direct services (like the
coffee maker or
navigation-systems). In this case, the information you might receive on
different devices would be consistent.
Also unusual is the used GUI and it's not a typical Windows Mobile user
interface. MSN Direct isn't using the Windows Mobile design but its own which
makes the whole user experience inconsistent (even if I wouldn't say that MSN
Direct's GUI is bad, far from it - it looks quite fresh).
Furthermore the content is too U.S. centric yet in all terms - from news to
weather (I only found Berlin as the only German city) to sports to entertainment
and since the news relies on content offered by MSN Direct, there's nothing I
Therefore I wouldn't use MSN Direct for Windows Mobile every day yet but I would
like to see further enhancements and feature improvements before it becomes a
standard on my Home screen. For instance RSS support. Imagine your Internet
Explorer 7 channels on your PC would sync with MSN Direct, then you can read the
same news on your mobile device you are reading on your PC. Or a better
interaction between MSN Direct for Windows Mobile and other MSN Direct devices
to make sure theses devices are synchronized as well. Furthermore, quite
important for me but also for world travelers, is the broader coverage of news.
Football, Baseball and Basketball are all nice but in the rest of the world,
Soccer, Formula One and other sports are more important.
But as I initially said, I'm quite happy that a division like the MSN Direct
division is entering the Windows Mobile world to bring more consumer important
joy to Windows Mobile.