Starting down the the path to the Dark Side

It’s time I just come out and say it. I have little to no faith in Microsoft’s ability to execute with the future of Windows Mobile. Specifically, upgradeability is a problem, and without that, new hotness features like the new user interface and app store are completely irrelevant for most Windows Mobile users.

While Apple, Google, Palm and even RIM are providing easy, free and in some cases non-destructive (leaves your data in place) upgrades, virtually none of the devices currently on the market, even those with more than enough horsepower to handle it, will be upgradeable to Windows Mobile 6.5. And upgradeability from 6.5 to 7, due out next year, looks similarly bleak. In the midst of a global recession while the competition is adding value to the devices people already have, Microsoft and their partners seem to believe that their users will be willing and eager to upgrade not once but twice to new hardware inside an 18 month window.

Microsoft, of all companies, should know better. Witness their current difficulty in getting users to upgrade from Windows XP. My company, a Fortune 500 corporation, just added Firefox as an option alongside IE 6 this week. The collective “thanks, but no thanks” from the user community they got for Vista will ring hauntingly familiar when people don’t line up to buy handsets based on their new operating systems. A deep recession is the worst time to pull what is likely to be seen as a bait and switch: Buy a hot new Touch Pro today, but you’ll have to buy the Touch Pro 2 to get 6.5, and then something else next year to get 7.

Conversely, other mobile platforms are showing far more good faith with their userbase. Even owners of the original iPhone will be able to upgrade to the forthcoming 3.0 firmware this summer, although their hardware won’t support all of the features. Palm has promised over the air, non-destructive upgrades for webOS on the Pre, fitting with their “everything in the cloud” philosophy. So taking a solid look around, I decided to try something else. The Pre isn’t out yet, and the Blackberry is still fairly primitive as mobile OSes go, not much more advanced than PalmOS Garnet. Y’all see where this is going.

No, I didn’t buy an iPhone. I bought an iPod Touch last Friday. The plan is to use this for a few months to get used to the Apple mobile OS and application experience, and then make an informed decision this summer to go one of three ways:

  1. Buy a third generation iPhone, or a refurb second generation (confusingly known as the 3G; I know why it’s called that, but still awkward) if the hardware differences aren’t all that significant (kinda hoping for an iPhone HD tho, mmm nummy 720p graphics)
  2. Buy a Palm Pre and either continue to use the iPod Touch for media (thinking primarily ebooks– eReader, Stanza, Kindle– and video from iTunes) and the Pre for everything else, or just the Pre and give the iPod to my mom if the Pre has eReader support at launch
  3. Buy a Blackberry Pearl and use it strictly as a phone, messenger and tether it over Bluetooth (yay, PdaNet!) to my iPod Touch when I’m out of WiFi range

Notice that none of those possibilities mentions Windows Mobile. While I’m hanging on to my Touch Pro until one of the aforementioned three possibilities emerges, I’m already acutely aware of how clunky and awkward it is, even with TouchFlo3D, compared to more modern alternatives.

5 thoughts on “Starting down the the path to the Dark Side”

  1. Shame to see you leaving WinMo, but I understand your frustration.

    In Microsofts defence however: It’s got nothing to do with them. They don’t produce the phones, their partners do.

    Microsoft said that it’s up to the manufacturers to decide to support 6.5 on their current line of phones. I highly doubt many will. Samsung won’t, which makes my Omnia cry 😛

    Apple, Palm, and to a lesser extent Google [we’ll see how they fare later in the year when there are more Android devices] have control over their platform that Microsoft could only dream of.

    It’s diversity is both it’s blessing and it’s curse, as you well know 🙂

    My brother has a second-gen iPod Touch, and they’re good… but not amazing. Same with the iPhone: it’s not amazing in my experience [and I’ve had a fair bit of experience with it!].

    We’ll see where Microsoft takes us with it’s latest rumblings with the Zune Mobile rumours resurfacing. A nice media player would be hot… a full-blown Zune Phone would be groundbreaking, and address some of the issues that you’re discussing.

    Also: Please don’t bother with the Pearl. Pieces of crap 😛

    The Pre has me drooling, but I’m still very happy with my Omnia. The user interface is good, I never need a stylus, the phone is rock solid [I haven’t soft reset in… well, in months now!], the camera great…

    The only thing that could make it better is an official upgrade to 6.5. I doubt we’ll see that, but it’d be nice. Luckily, we have the folks at Omnia.Modaco that have already ported it, so I’m not worried.

    Regardless, the Pre and Palm’s WebOS has my interest piqued, but the one platform where I’m really really focused on is Symbian Foundation.

    I’m a UIQ3 fanboi from way back, so it’ll be interesting to see where they take Symbian. Hopefully away from where Nokia wants it to go 😉

  2. I’m well aware I could have gotten a better deal by waiting, and considered that, and then Windows Mobile got on my last nerve. Like I said, this is a test run, and I’ll most likely be giving this to my mom for Kindle usage.

  3. Some of the restrictions on Windows Mobile upgradeability are up to the carriers, but some are up to Microsoft. For instance, the Sprint Touch Pro has more than enough horsepower to run 6.5, but doesn’t quality for the upgrade. Why? Because Microsoft has mandated that all 6.5 devices have a Windows button. The home button on the Touch Pro has a little house, not a Windows flag. So no upgrade.

  4. “Because Microsoft has mandated that all 6.5 devices have a Windows button.”

    I don’t actually think this is correct, despite what was said to begin with, as there have been a few WinMo 6.5 devices announced that lack the Windows key, and Microsoft said that any phone with a 400mhz CPU [I think, basically what they were saying is anything with enough grunt] can be upgraded if the manufacturer wishes.

    I’ll tweet you the links if I can find ’em 🙂

    I understand the frustration, I really do, but for me WinMo is a good fit for customisability and performance.

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