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:
- 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)
- 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
- 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.