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THOUGHT: The way how Windows Mobile Software is distributed today needs to be roofed
Posted by Arne Hess - on Sunday, 17.07.05 - 18:54:27 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 10131x
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Today I found more time to play a little bit more intensive with the HTC Universal I got for the (long awaited) review and I have to admit, speed-wise (with UMTS/3G) it really rocks. It's amazing how much more fun the wireless Internet makes, if you use it with a UMTS/3G data connection instead of the way slower GPRS/2.5G connection.
Amazing enough, on my balcony, I really reached top speeds up to 360 Kbit/s (today's UMTS maximum is 384 Kbit/s) so yes - this is what I've dreamed about all the years since I've started in 1997 with my first Windows Powered handheld PC I've used for 9.6 Kbit/s 2G CSD (Circuit Switched Data) data connections!

Nevertheless, as you get more speed also your requirements increases and I wanted to try the one or the other software on the device, in combination with Windows Mobile 5.0 as well as with the VGA screen and I never realized it that much as today how hard it is to get cab-version of software only.

If you are not that deep into it, there are two version of setup files for Pocket PCs (and Smartphones): cab files and exe file. Exe files are installed from the PC via ActiveSync. However, basically the PC is "only" unpacking the exe file which also contains a cab file and copies this to your device. From there, the Windows Mobile device automatically starts the cab and installs the application. Some developers also provide cab versions of their applications. These cab files have to be either copied to the device (or can be directly downloaded - as I tried today) and can be executed/installed directly from the device; without requiring a PC in the middle.

Now, if you try to download a piece of software, where no cab version is available from the developers (or shop) site, you are lost, you will need your PC to get the file installed.

I think we will need a change in how the software is distributed in the close future since more and more Windows Mobile devices will be 3G enabled (doesn't matter which radio technology you are using) with download speeds 6 times higher than a traditional dial-up ISDN connection. Together with decreasing tariff-plans (yes, they will/have to decrease sooner or later and in some parts of the world you already get flat fees for mobile data) there is no sense anymore to offer a installation through the PC only.

The best case scenario would be, that a Windows Mobile device could recognize a PC exe file as valid for installation on the device itself and just taking the cab part of the file for installation. In this case we could continue with the exe distribution only which you can either use from your PC or Windows Mobile device. However, this has some architectural impacts which requires Microsoft support.
As a short-term solution, developers and online shops should start offering the download of both versions - the PC exe and Windows Mobile cab versions which allows you to select the proper file you need at the current situation.
Last but not least, maybe a developer is reading this and can offer a kind of installation wizard for Pocket PCs (and for sure for Smartphones) which you have to install one time only and which can be used later to extract cab files from a downloaded exe file if you had to download a exe version?

Nevertheless, with the current developments of speed, we need new ways to distribute software - not to mention W-LAN which is widely used at home, offices and public hotspots.

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by smeg6 on 17.07.05 - 19:43:32

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Lucky!  I'm still anxiously awaiting your review of the Universal.  I completely agree with your assessment about the need for developers to release cab versions for download.

Posted by farnold on 17.07.05 - 21:55:53

I agree with what you say, Arne, but would go quite a bit further here as well.

When buying a PocketPC all upgrades only ever get to you when the manufacturer releases them for this or that specific device. The main reason is the absence of real standards when it comes to PocketPCs. Yes, they have to meet certain general requirements, but the way how they do this is by far too open. When you get a PC you are assured that every operating system upgrade will run and you have full control to install it. Nobody would ever accept that DELL or HP or your usual no-name-manufacturer have to make patches or upgrades available before you can use them on your PC. That's achieved through standards that increase user satisfaction, support competition and ultimately drive down costs. Not so on the PocketPC market where manufacturers have a very close eye on not giving up their control on what a user can do and what not. Their unwillingness to release upgrades for certain devices is linked to their intention rather selling new devices than supporting older ones. This concept allows them to keep costs high and limit development for the end-user to a minimum.

So my conclusion here is a different one - and I tend to hardly ever disagree with your analysis, Arne smile

We need to get clear standards that break to power of certain device manufacturers. Only then Windows Mobile will become a wider-spread OS - and questions like methods of software installation routines will find very natural answers. Is it likely to happen? Probably not for the next few years. TabletPC and MCE are two good examples where great concepts don't really work when you rely too much on certain hardware manufacturers. I hope "someone" learned that lesson...

Posted by Mobile Phone Fan on 18.07.05 - 00:43:19

I was nagging both Handango and about mobile version for a long long time in various conferences, for example "why still there is no mobile version of and, so that end users could download and install the software wirelessly ? what are you waiting for ? don´t you think, that it is urgent? " from .

Please note that some EXE files have multiple CAB files for several processors so extraction process on device could be impossible...

The only thing, that can convince these mobile software shops to launch mobile version is competition... and such competition is coming...

Posted by Arne Hess on 18.07.05 - 13:20:07

Mobile Phone Fan wrote:

Please note that some EXE files have multiple CAB files for several processors so extraction process on device could be impossible...

This is more relevant for older software since today's software, which is designed for Windows Mobile > 2002 has ARM versions only so I don't see a real problem here.
Also I don't think it's a solution for Joe User but for experienced users.

The only thing, that can convince these mobile software shops to launch mobile version is competition... and such competition is coming...

This is one scenario, right. However, thanks to increased screen resolutions (like Universals VGA screen) and high speed data, I'm not talking about mobile software shop versions only but about the general availability of cab file downloads. Also from developer's homepages - which is important also!
A good example is Skype where I went yesterday with the Universal and they offer a cab file download straight from the regular page (since the don't have/I didn't found a mobile version anyway).

Posted by galt on 20.07.05 - 14:58:55

The wait for a full hands-on review/preview of the HTC Universal is killing us!  Which carrier's version of the device did you get (O2, imate, Tmob, etc.)?

Posted by Arne Hess on 20.07.05 - 16:26:05

galt wrote:

The wait for a full hands-on review/preview of the HTC Universal is killing us!  Which carrier's version of the device did you get (O2, imate, Tmob, etc.)?

I know, I know... sad I'm working on it but have a fairly limited amount of spare time at the moment since I'm working abroad, not at home.
Regarding the device version, it's a vanilla development device without a carrier or distributor relationship.

Posted by richard on 16.02.06 - 16:45:14

i agree wholehearedly, am stuck about 1500km from my pc with a file which has been rar'ed and can't find a cab install for pocket rar.  So now i have to email the file to a friend to get it unrar'ed and zipped and then mailed back.  I see there are applications for mac users to extract the cab files from exe installs, surely an application can be written for this to be done on a pocket pc?

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