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REVIEW: The Windows Vista Windows Mobile Device Center
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 29.01.07 - 14:58:04 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 49520x
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As you might have heard already, with tomorrows Windows Vista launch, the Microsoft ActiveSync client will be replaced by the Windows Mobile Device Center. ActiveSync will not work on Windows Vista PCs anymore but the required sync-client should become a native part of Microsoft's latest operating system.
As before with ActiveSync, the new Windows Mobile Device Center is the bridge between the PC OS and the Windows Mobile device, responsible for synchronizing both units and as before, also the Windows Mobile Device Center supports PIM synchronization of Microsoft Outlook. 3rd party PIM applications like Lotus Notes and others are still not supported.

Nevertheless, the Windows Mobile Device Center can do even more than just plain PIM synchronization - it also supports synchronization of audio and video files as well as importing photos from the Windows Mobile device to the PC.

Therefore, the main goals for the Windows Mobile Device Center were:

  • Seamlessly integrated with the Windows Vista experience
  • Shift user experience framework from sync centric to holistic device experience
  • Reduce set-up and support burden and costs
  • Serviceability via Windows Update

Windows Vista In-box Experience
As soon as you dock a Windows Mobile-based device, the Windows Mobile Device Center should launch automatically:

The device image icon on the left-hand side is pulled from the device registry which can be an OEM customization (in future). However, if the device image icon is not available on the device, a default device icon is used in dependency of the connected device (either a Smartphone or a Pocket PC as you can see on the screenshot above).

New Partnership Wizard
The Windows Mobile Device Center includes a new Partnership Manager which nevertheless still reminds on ActiveSync:

Synchronization Experience
Once a partnership has been established, a notification area will be displayed under the device image icon to provide sync status and progress info:

Windows Vista Sync Center Integration
Windows Vista also includes a new application called Windows Sync Center. After a Windows Mobile Device Center partnership has been established, the user can also go into Sync Center for sync information. The partnership is listed here, and as part of the integration, a subset of features are exposed, such as start and stop sync, browse the device or even open the Windows Mobile Device Center application:

Programs and Services
Programs and Services allows the user to add/remove programs or learn more about the OEM via the OEM-provided URL (customizable by OEMs):

Pictures, Music and Video
With Pictures, Music and Video, users can easily share pictures taken on camera-enabled devices via Pictures Acquisition. Under Pictures, Music and Video, there are 2 new pictures waiting to be imported.
Clicking on this launches the Pictures Acquisition Wizard. Click on Import and the pictures will get automatically transferred to the desktop to be shown from the Windows Photo Gallery:

File Management
With File Management, the user can browse the device via the File Explorer and see what files are there, as well as open the file directly from the device which means copy/paste from the device to the PC isn't necessary anymore:

Mobile Device Settings
Under Mobile Device Settings, the user can establish a new partnership and set up the device or change their device connection settings:

Final Conclusion

The new Windows Mobile Device Center is definitely an improvement over the current Microsoft ActiveSync which stayed more or less unchanged since the Pocket PC introduction back in 2000.
The Windows Mobile Device Center offers many features, Windows Mobile users awaited for a long time, like automatic import of photos and the ability to open files straight from the mobile device without copying the files to the PC first. For power users, this is very handy.
Unfortunately, other features are still left, like wireless synchronization over W-LAN. As before, also the Windows Mobile Device Center supports sync via USB and Bluetooth only. As far as I've figured out, not all Bluetooth stacks works fine with the WMDC yet and I had no luck to get the Toshiba Bluetooth stack working with the Windows Mobile Device Center. However, the native Windows Vista Bluetooth stack works fine.

All together, the Windows Mobile Device Center is definitely an improvement and should reduce the problems, users had before with Microsoft ActiveSync.
Just one final note about compatibility: Since the Windows Mobile Device Center is a completely new design, old sync plug-ins doesn't works anymore (for instance Sycdata's SmartphoneNotes sync plug-in). So keep in mind, that right after the introduction of Windows Vista, you might lose some functionalities but I'm faithful that most developers will update their applications to Windows Mobile Device Center pretty soon.

Cheers ~ Arne

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