"Microsoft has made some stumbles in the mobile world, but a strategy shift made more than a year ago will soon pay dividends, the company's top Windows Mobile executive said in an interview with CNET News. Andy Lees, the executive brought over from the server unit a year ago, said that Microsoft's efforts to make sure that its mobile software could run on a wide range of phones resulted in an operating system that failed to take advantage of advances in hardware. "We aimed to go for a lower common denominator," Lees said. Microsoft was also limited by the origins of Windows Mobile, which was developed to power handheld computers that neither connected to a network nor handled voice. "We started out when we were in PDAs (personal digital assistants) and then a phone got strapped to the back of the PDA," Lees said. The company also failed to recognize that phones--even those that were used for business--were still as much personal as they were professional."
The first four paragraphs of the CNET/ZDNet article accurately highlight some of Windows Mobile's flaws, and why the once-venerable smartphone operating system, at times, appears feeble next to relative newcomers, iPhone OS, Android, and webOS. But it's not all doom and gloom for Microsoft. According to Andy Lees, we'll see some breakthroughs over the next 18 months, with the first set expected as soon as mid-February as Microsoft takes the stage at MWC. Lees hinted at an increased reliance on the cloud, the need to improve the core of Windows Mobile in order to keep up with the competition, and a closer relationship with OEMs (which we can only hope translates to more frequent and more consistent updates for all consumers).
Is this the right approach? Sound off in this thread.
18 months is a long time to wait. MS Mobile is just too slow at following market trends and too deaf to customer complaints and suggestions. Heck even from within MS they don't listen, I tried and gave up. The push towards the smartphone platform and away from pocketPC phone was a big mistake in my opinion. Also people have been screaming for browser and other improvements since 2000 - where are they?
Part of the problem at MS (my opinion anyway) is that they focus too much on dog fooding. They live in a world where everything is Microsoft only. Currently you get seriously abused if you use an iPhone on campus. A few years back you got beat up for using Google. Heaven forbid you get caught using a Mac (unless you're in the Mac group of course). The problem is that if you put on blinders you don't know what is going on in the market and with your competition. Remember Balmer saying he would never let his kids use an iPod? If you've never used an iPod how can you know how bad the Zune sucks?
Employees there, as a general rule, have no idea what the competition is. They live an breath MS products. Back when I worked on Windows we had a Friday dev talk where someone brought in and demoed the latest version of OSX. People were shocked. There were literally audible gasps and open mouths across the room. All the time I was thinking, "How can they not know this? Don't they visit the same sites I do? Aren't they curious geeks like myself?" I have lots of stories like this. Don't get me started on browser tabs, Gmail and Google maps, but I digress...
I have friends that work in the mobile group and I wish them the all the best, but so far I'm not hearing anything from them worth getting excited about. I think management has it all backwards. If I were in charge over there, I would give EVERY SINGLE Windows Mobile developer, PM and manager an iPhone. I would make them live with it 24 hours a day, and tell them "Now go and make something better than this!"
As for me, I'm moving on.
I use Remote Conductor for iPad!
I have been thinking about Windows Mobile and iPhone in the last days and in the end I concluded that the disadvantage of WM noted above (lots of different hardware configurations) might prove as an advantage in the medium term.
Think about the technical properties of the iPhone and the huge software infrastructure that gets built around it right now.
In 2-3 years Apple will need to introduce new technologies to the iPhone to keep it up to date, for instance just think about a higher screen resolution. Then they will experience the same trouble that WM had for a long time, since then they will have differing hardware platforms too and all those thousands of tiny applications will somehow have to take care of that.
So as long as the iPhone does not change in significant ways, Apple's approach will work fine, but that means that they can not simply change fundamental features of the iPhone without opening the same can of worms (hardware incompatibilities) that WM has to deal with since years.
It has been the same thing with Apple's desktop PCs. As long as they have been a closed system, they were nearly perfect. In the moment as the multimedia approach of PCs started, they had to open up the closed system and there they encountered the same problems as Microsoft had for a long time. So that was when the Macs started to get their share of problems too.
I am very curious how Apple will solve this dilemma with the iPhone. This will get interesting.
"The company also failed to recognize that phones--even those that were used for business--were still as much personal as they were professional."
I think this sums it up for me. I remember when WM2003SW and ActiveSuck 3.8 could sync through wi-fi, but that feature was removed in WM5 and AS4 because Microsoft's "Business customers" saw it as a security issue. Removing that feature was a major inconvenience for those of us who weren't "business customers" even if we used our devices for work purposes.
I don't think Microsoft really understands who it's customers actually are for any of it's products. For a long time, I believed that Windows Media Player/ the Microsoft Zune were being marketed to those gyrating silhouettes from the iPod commercials rather than to real people.
Current devices: iPhone 3G. Previous devices: Samsung Epix and 1st gen 32GB iPod Touch BlackJack II, iPaq 6945, iPaq hx4705, Dell Axim x30 high, iPaq 3765.
I think this sums it up for me. I remember when WM2003SW and ActiveSuck 3.8 could sync through wi-fi, but that feature was removed in WM5 and AS4 because Microsoft's "Business customers" saw it as a security issue.
It wasn't just seen as a security issue. It was a security issue. Business users expressing concern wasn't a factor. Information transmitted through ActiveSync over IPwas unencrypted. The problem would be present even if you were syncing over an ethernet cable connected to your router. Mike Calligro, of the Windows Embeded team (the team that develops Windows CE. Windows Mobile is derived from CE) took on the subject in 2006. ActiveSync was never intended to work over WiFi. It had been made to work over Ethernet for devices that were directly connected to a computer via an ethernet cable. Since it was working over IP when WiFi was added to devices it just automatically worked. It was designed as a protocol for devices that are physically connected.
If you ould like to perform wireless syncing use Bluetooth. It is more secure.
The protocol also didn't identify devices, so if I were on your network I could make my computer look like it was your device and trick your device into sending me all of your contact information.
Iím sure that I wonít come out of this one unscathed. The people affected by this are really angry. And, though I didnít have anything to do with the decision, Iím guessing that youíre going to take your frustrations out on me anyway.
The official (and true) reason has always been stated as ďWe removed it for security reasons.Ē But, judging from the number of angry comments I see posted here, that explanation hasnít really convinced anyone that it was a good idea.
Desktop ActiveSync over WiFi was sending all your contacts, calendar, and email data over the internet without doing anything to keep people from reading it. If that doesnít strike fear into your heart, let me add the second reason. When a device connects over desktop ActiveSync we donít do enough to make it prove that itís really your device (we donít ďauthenticateĒ well enough). So, yes, when you had WiFi enabled on desktop ActiveSync, people on the internet could watch what you sent and then use that information to pretend to be your device. If they were successful at this, they could convince the your desktop to start sending your information directly to them.
So why did you implement it in the first place?
ActiveSync started out as a way to plug your device directly into your PC over a serial port. Yes, itís that old (many PCs donít even have serial ports anymore). There was no need for any sort of security here, because the only way to do this was to physically connect two machines. If you had control of both machines, youíd already compromised whatever security was there.
At some point, PCs and Pocket PCs started getting USB ports. So we modified desktop ActiveSync to talk over USB. But we mostly did it by pretending the USB port was a serial one and sending the same kind of data over it. At some later point we started seeing Compact Flash network cards. We thought, ďHey, thatís another way we could connect to ActiveSync,Ē and built in the ability to sync over Ethernet. Not too many people used it, though, because it didnít make too much sense to plug Ethernet cables into your mobile device. Later on, though, WiFi arrived. In the end, WiFi is just a wireless way to do Ethernet, so it pretty much automatically worked with what we had already built.
Itís not really Sync over WiFi that we removed. We removed Sync over Ethernet. Itís just that WiFi needed Ethernet Sync to work.
I actually thought it was fairly encouraging. Well, as encouraging as it can be without any real details. I know that Microsoft is capable of making some killer UI's (Zune, Media Center, Surface...). Here's hoping that there next major mobile UI is worth the wait and of that caliber.
The parts I found of most interest was their recognition that low end hardware and the mobile carriers were holding them back.
I am trying to be optimistic - Microsoft has the resources to do it right - now it is a question of whether they have the leadership to pull it off.
The discussion here about the ActiveSync via WiFi reminds me of why my optimism may be dashed. I'm not a security expert, but what the WinMo team said makes sense - there was a security loophole - but the lesson here in my mind is that Microsoft didn't react to what users wanted: Sync via WiFi!!! I missed it and I know others did too. It was cool to enter my home and synch, without having to be right next to the computer to use Bluetooth. So, why don't they build a new infrastructure that does SECURE WiFi synchronization? It can't be that hard, compared to some of the other things they have done with the platform over the years.
It's like the "close programs" button (a/k/a "X") ... for a very LONG time the community has said, "give us an option to TERMINATE a program" and Microsoft just makes excuses. If your users want it, quit spending time explaining why they don't need it, and JUST DO IT!
So, I'll give Microsoft 18 months - but at the end of 18 months - as I've said at PPC Thoughts before, let's get something revolutionary, not evolutionary. In the meantime do interim things like really push the beauty of Live Mesh and other cloud based initiatives. Give the community something positive to talk about!!!
First off it's good to hear an executive at MS actually admit they made mistakes. The sad part is the mistakes admitted to have been pointed out many times before now, and just now they seem to be getting it.
2nd, he indicates they've been working on changes for some time now, but then goes on to say it's going to be 12-18 months more before we see anything. In tech terms that's too long. Unless they are doing a giant leapfrog of the market, things they are planning today will be old news by the time it gets released.
I like that he indicates they are going to be working more closely with manufacturers, but note that there isn't any indication of discussions with carriers to stop stripping features from the devices or to get them to stop preventing OS upgrades in a prompt manner. In the US, this will continue to be an obstacle to success.
For me to get back on the bandwagon they are going to have to deliver a premium experience, that isn't compromised because they are concerned that manufacturer XYZ doesn't want to spend the $ on memory, screen real estate, etc. They need to put strict hardware requirements in place, at least for a segment of the market. For example if I buy a fancy new phone with a VGA scree, the core OS and programs all need to be VGA, not pixel doubled - the OEM has to make sure the screen is big and easy to use, they have to enable hardware graphics acceleration, etc. In other words, Microsoft needs to ensure the entire experience is a good one, not just that their software runs on 10 million different devices.
It wasn't just seen as a security issue. It was a security issue. Business users expressing concern wasn't a factor. Information transmitted through ActiveSync over IPwas unencrypted. The problem would be present even if you were syncing over an ethernet cable connected to your router.
So instead of removing a valuable feature, how about adding the necessary encryption to make it secure? The problem is over time, it has become very easy for Microsoft to throw away valuable features. It's almost like they look at an issue, and the way to fix a problem is removing features. I never heard a reasonable explanation for removal of category sync, as another example.
So instead of removing a valuable feature, how about adding the necessary encryption to make it secure?
He addresses that question too under the heading "Then fix it." It is also addressed several more times in the comments area.
There's lots more interesting explanations on attributes of windows mobile in the Windows Mobile and Windows Embeded team blogs. It won't make any one feel better about not having a desired feature but it's always nice to know. One of my favourite ones is "The Emperor has no Close" which explains why the X button doesn't close apps.
Last edited by j2inet; 01-29-2009 at 08:42 PM..
Reason: appended "Emperor has no Close" link