back to article Microsoft made a phone, and I hate it already

Microsoft's next mobile platform will probably make for nice mobile phones, but for those of us hankering after a mobile computer it's just going to be annoying. Windows Phone 7 Series has the right kinds of sliding bits and wobbly buttons that everyone seems to admire so much these days, and that means it will probably sell …

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Can I recommend ...

... the Nokia N900.

A pocket computer with a very effective phone mode.

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A title?

"Can I recommend the Nokia N900?"

Agreed...

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How about battery life ?

This would seem to be to be one of those things that should be thoroughly considered in the early stages of (HW&SW) design, and even so a right bitch to get - more or less - sorted. Nokia should have had a fair change with this given their past experience. I understand that this has been less than stellar with Windows Mobile in the past - another case of medicore results at an enormous expense ? [Or maybe we just need new kind of batteries, where the the most important parameter is not mAh but perhaps Bq ?]

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No

It's too small. They took the best bits of the N800 and N810, the gorgeous screen and lack of phone, and threw them away. I loved my N800 to bits, still do, all I wanted in it was a 3G modem.

So now I rock the HTC HD2. I will glady go back to Maemo when they boost the screen size back to 4"+. 5" would be even better.

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I think you are right

I've wanted to lust after an N900.

I currently own an N800 and a 5800, so i've got my 3G modem in case of emergencies. But I haven't had any yet.

The N800 has a nice screen size and can do lightweight office stuff while sitting, e.g., in the Southbank complex using their free wifi (well, £40/year but I also get a great view over the Thames)

I prefer the maps on the N800 and the GPS on the 5800 is a bit slow but it all "just works" and of course I can doodle on the web while getting a boring phone call, the upside of two devices.

Maybe the N910 will drive me into its arms.

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@gerryg

"I've wanted to lust after an N900." I lusted over the idea of it, right up till they released the real specs. Then I went shopping elsewhere :(

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Pocket PC....

Now I've heard that some where before...

I think this is where the distinction between phone and slate comes in. Some thing like the Dell one, if its really any good might be ideal. Or if you want a bit bigger screen there will be some one of the size that meets your needs.

Then just use a headset if its a little to big to be a phone.

I guess MS have the problem that they can't make one OS work every where, its a shame... unified windows accross phones and PCs would rock, no need for mobile office, lets have real office. Maybe one day....

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"use a headset if its a little to big to be a phone"

*gets image of someone holding a slate to their ear attempting to make a phonecall*

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NB

Maemo

N900.

Nuff said.

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maemo is now pronounced meego

i think you meant to say meego.

i hope they reassure prospective and existing n900 owners soon about its future, and also release meego ASAP running on a few more phones

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Symbian as mobile computing

Given your thoughts on this, perhaps Symbian has a bit more going for it still...

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One would hope ...

... as it has been made (or is in the process of being made) into open source and all that, but then, ultimately, it is thoroughly screwed as a development platform, especially so with Nokia's deeply mystifying additions. Slim hope with Qt+Symbian, though, if they ever get it to work as to completely hide the underlying platform and/or modify it so that e.g. multithreading and normal use of standard C++ is not sabotaged by platform design. It will probably take too much time before this is 1) realized, and assuming that 1 eventually happens 2) implemented; meanwhile, the crucial independent developers have gone elsewhere.

It might make sense to simply discard the upper layers of Symbian as it is now (assuming that the lower levels are in fact decent or can be made so) and replace the upper ones with, say, Java (as, I seem to recall was done, with Android). Then again this is probably an IP (sw patent) minefield.

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Silver badge

"Why can't Redmond stick to computers?"

Uh ... probably because the only truly useful thing that ever came out of Microsoft was the original "Dove Soap" mouse?

If anyone, anywhere, after all these years, still thinks that even Microsoft thinks that their products are the best way of shuffling around ones and zeros ... Well, all I can say is enjoy your coolaid.

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Silver badge

Damn.

With all the Microsoft shills/yesmen posting to ElReg in the last week or so, I was seriously hoping for at least 25 "thumbs down".

Mental note: When trolling, must try harder ;-)

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Re: Jake

LOL. MS shills/yesmen I like that, I think they're just pissed as they know in the next 10 years they'll be sealing with the same crud, just different acronyms.

Oh that's right, it'll be new and close to solving some of their hassles :-)

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Gates Halo

Bill Ray wrote an article, and I hate it already

Speaking as someone who, before my current Android, owned a Windows Smartphone and then Windows Mobile 5, 6 & 6.1, I can't help but feel Bill missed the point with his very first paragraph.

Part of the reason that Windows Mobile's UI sucked quite so badly was that it *had* morphed from a computer into a phone. You can still see the historical links to PocketPCs and iPaqs from the 1990s as recently as WM6.5. But so what? Notwithstanding the state of the UI, most people don't want or expect the same level of technology in their portable devices as they do on the desktop. Bill seems like he does - and once-upon-a-time I did too - but it's a minority view.

Arguably it took the iPhone to shake the world into recognising this fact, and Android to take it to the next level. Perhaps Bill is simply arguing that Microsoft, having seen two popular, solid platforms go before it (sorry Symbian!), doesn't seem to have moved it on to the third phase and made something which truly combines a decent UI with genuinely portable computing?

That would be fair enough, but given how long MS have struggled with a technically decent but clunky platform you might forgive them for concentrating on producing something people might actually want to buy - and just as importantly use - before dealing with the funky stuff later. Let's hope they do.

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WTF?

Ermmm but....

....these are phones first...not small computers.

Maybe you need a different product entirely?

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Boffin

Actually, no.

Most of these devices are actually classed as Pocket PCs. The problem is that none of these companies want to make 2 OSes, so Pocket PCs are rapidly turning back into smart phones, thanks largely to the success of the iPhone.

If I wanted a smart phone, I'd buy one, but I don't - I want a Pocket PC.

Still, I understand why. A lot more people want a smart phone than a true Pocket PC.

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Omnia

It seems a little unfair to criticise the Omnia for having nice finger-friendly menus, when a finger is precisely what most people will use to interact with it. The RedFly is a great idea, but it's very much a niche product, and you can hardly expect phone manufacturers to design with it in mind.

Similarly, to say the iPhone cannot multitask whereas the Omnia "chooses not to" seems like an odd distinction. Both devices are perfectly capable of multitasking at the hardware level, but both of them feature an OS which does not permit it (assuming you count the combination of Windows Mobile and Samsung's front-end to it as "the OS").

As for Android, I've yet to use it a great deal, but I was under the impression that the native browser is very good, obviating the need for third party browsers such as Opera. And regarding the RedFly - surely it's up to Celio to support Android rather than vice-versa?

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FAIL

What does "multitask" mean?

The iPhone certainly can multitask, unless by "multitask" you mean something other than "run more than one app simultaneously".

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FAIL

RE: What does "multitask" mean?

"Unlike an iPhone, the Omnia II has the ability to multitask, but it chooses not to."

...but the iPhone CAN multitask - Apple just don't let anyone who writes an app let it do it. Their own apps work fine.

I've not tried it yet because I have no songs on my iPhone but I believe you can continue listening to one while using Safari...

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Multitasking

Absolutely, the iPhone CAN and does multitask... with Apple apps. With anything else you've no chance. I really don't know why...

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What did you expect?

Windows mobile only ever needed to do any of that because running a full version of Windows on a portable device was not feasible. If you are trying to get work done then a phone is not for you; what you need is a netbook. Still able to fit into a small space it is capable of multi-tasking and running full versions of software.

Trust me I tried the whole PDA office thing even going so far as to buy a fold out keyboard, the concept just doesn't work when you are trying to get anything serious done. Cut your losses and see Windows mobile for what it really is which is a mobile entertainment operating system which you can use for light work such as checking emails and documents on the go; leave the real work to be done by a device built to handle it.

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FAIL

Red Fly At Night, Big Pile Of Shite.

But then on he other hand Bill, if i was in a position to carry a RedFly, I could just as well carry a netbook which I coud reasonably expect to have enough grunt to do all of those things at once.

The one I'm scrawling this on is running Visul Studio, IDA, pulling mail and recognising my handwriting while I bitch at you.

That would be a bit much to ask of a phone, which has completely different design goals. Like, y'know, Duh!

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Jobs Horns

If it vibrates.....

You could always use it as a butt plug.

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Paris Hilton

The last thing you would want

The last thing you would want is your butt plugs blue-screening on you!

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Joke

Hmmm

If these things are going to start shining out of people's a*ses, maybe Sun should get into the market.

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Silver badge

The problem is that I don't want a mobile phone

No, the problem is most people that 'just want a phone' aren't going to spend £300+, however pretty it is. Especially not when a £4.99 candy bar does the job well enough.

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Shirley you're not serious

iPhone users spend that amount on something that is barely a phone..

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Paris Hilton

Mmm,...

Received an iPhone 3GS and SIM card for 219 bucks

Received 10 bucks off the monthly charge

Received 100 bucks off future bills because of number transfer and singed up for 24 month

Received 100 bucks off future bills because I've got referred by my wife

Received 50 bucks for online sign up

So, in fact my iPhone went over the table for -31 bucks (yea minus)

Thanks to their 10th Anniversary in Switzerland

The future is bright the future is Orange ;-p

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Rob
Stop

That's great...

... but how much is your average phone bill a month?

That's where the true cost of the iPhone is met

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Anonymous Coward

RE: That's great...

I can only speak for myself - I am on a contract.

Monthly cost £30.

That includes UNLIMITED internet...

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only a tenner for me

Came to the end of my tmobile contract - i don't need many mins as i work from home. Got £10 a month incl interweb!

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FAIL

I know math are hard

but you should add to your minus X the cost of 24 times your monthly plan, assuming you don't have hidden costs of course(not like your telecom provider would want you to pay extra mind you), I doubt your total cost on 24 months will be in the negative.

In fact I am quite sure it won't.

The good thing is that what you just argued is EXACTLY how they want you to think ...

good boy.

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Can't win really

At the moment there really isn't a platform with the excellent end-user inferface of the iPhone, and the power and usability of Windows.

As a business platform, Windows Mobile is actually very good. I'm talking for mobile computers - DHL, CitiLink and various other delivery companies use it, we use it here for warehousing (Motorola Symbol device with barcode scanner, RFID, Bluetooh and wifi). Superb device and an excellent platform for developing against. (networking stack in 6.5 just works - regardless of method, .Net, SQL CE, Java etc. - all run very well on WM) Even management is superb with MS's tools. Any apps can be installed without an "app store", it can be hacked to pieces, works with countless 3rd party tools and hardware add-ons etc.

However for a phone it sucks. The interface is crap - and that's being generous (although slighly better in 6.5 it's still awful), reliability of the phone subsystem is bizzarly poor compared to the reliability of the rest of the stacks.

Just getting the phone stack to work wouldn't be enough - as it wouldn't appease the business users who want a Pre or iPhone but will just about live with a Nokia or Blackberry (though a concession with IT) because of the GUI.

So if they tart the GUI up enough and fix the phone side then the best WM will do is make a small inroad to the business market.

However for mobiles businesses aren't big money compared to the consumer market - so MS keep the core of WM (Kernel and under-the-hood stuff - which isn't bad), slap on a nice GUI and up the HW specs.

Appeals to consumers, but a more restrictive GUI will limit business use.

I'm interested as to what they'll do for the enterprise customers. We don't want to move from WM for our warehousing operation, but I can't see how it would work on the WM7 platform. Hopefully they'll have a business edition without the GUI.

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FAIL

I'm perplexed...

...all this talk of 'mobile computing' and 'bluetooth keyboards' and 'RedFly'...

Why not just get a netbook?

You'd get much better battery life, you'd get desktop applications and, most of all, you wouldn't be stuck with an OS designed for a phone-size screen rather than one designed for a computer.

It seems that the author is merely being stubborn...sure, I can see your problem, but it's not REALLY a problem. It's more that you're just being awkward - are you really surprised that Microsoft have developed a finger-friendly UI rather than one friendly to some nerd who carries a netbook-size unit around to hook up to their smartphone?

Oh, and FYI:

"Unlike an iPhone, the Omnia II has the ability to multitask, but it chooses not to."

Fail. That's exactly what the iPhone does.

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I agree to a degree

Not to stop Microsoft in their pursuits but I also love having a powerful device in a small package. I currently own an HTC Touch Pro2. It does a lot for a semi-little guy. I have been happy with it.

I even use it as a wireless router (WMWiFiRouter) for my laptop giving me the ability to create my own WiFi zone anywhere I have access to the Telus data network.

I love being able to quickly look something up on the Internet when a question arises in conversation. These things give us Web, email, Text, phone, IM, etc. Social networking if that's your thing. I have an unlimited data plan. I can download things onto the micro SD card then transfer it to a PC.

I do not have iPhone envy. I love the removable storage that the iPhone doesn't have along with the ability to swap batteries, I carry a spare. What kind of company leaves off these important features? Am I supposed to be impressed by the gestures? The iPhone doesn't do or have some important things but you can play with your fingers on the screen. That is no replacement for functionality.

If MS drops the ball let's hope someone else picks it up. I for one do not want to have to carry around a tablet.

Steve

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Battery

Just out of interest what sort of battery life are you getting on your HTC?

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Rob

On my TP2

I'm getting an average of a day and half, that's usually consists of data connection almost permentantely on, using email, taking notes, bit of satnav, surfing the web and using bluetooth headset.

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Gates Horns

The UI update is long overdue

I haven't fully read up on Windows Phone 7, but does it not support all the old Windows Mobile apps? If not then Microsoft have probably been a bit stupid there.

That said, the pokey old Windows Mobile interface was badly outdated and needed to be reworked. No-one wants styluses any more so it needed to be more finger friendly and while the multi-tasking is nice, it eats memory and slows performance to a crawl. Most handset manufacturers exacerbate the situation with weak CPUs incapable of offering decent performance, resulting in sluggish, unresponsive handsets.

All the phone manufacturers have tried to fix this by hacking custom front ends onto the phones, but that's just messy and doesn't hide the underlying failings of Windows Mobile, nor does it remove the occasional need to pick your way through those old menu screens. The strict restrictions Microsoft are deploying for WinPho7 should do away with all these hacks and sluggish interfaces. Hopefully they'll mandate a minimum CPU to maintain performance too.

Besides, who is to say WinPho7 can't be a decent pocket computer? I've got SSH, RDP and an office suite on my iPhone (there's an app for that...), I'm sure similar apps will be released for Windows Phone 7, it might not even be a big job for developers to port from Windows Mobile.

When it comes to small portable devices I think restrictions like this are key in ensuring a workable UI and decent level of performance. Windows Mobile tried to do everything a desktop could and failed, the iPhone OS by comparison is cut down to basics and is better for it.

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Overhaul or shift in focus

Maybe I am missing something here - please correct me if I am wrong; but Win Mobile 7 seems to be a completely new OS that is aimed at the consumer phone market...

Could it be that Redmond have realised that the business market has stagnated and that the next big market is the one that Apple kick started with the iPhone (thats the consumer smartphone if you haven't guessed and an n900 does not count)

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Anonymous Coward

A phone 1st

I have ditched two windows phones. Good PDA's but useless as phones. I do not want to have to press a load of keys to be able to talk or text. Yes I want the PDA functions too else I'd buy a mobile phone.

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Happy

There's another way.

Don't buy a pricey known-brand WinMo phone, where what you're paying for is the lovingly crafted, less-computer-more-phone interface anyway. Shop around and source a cheap as chips, unlocked, basic WinMo only unit bereft of bells, whistles and other OEM crap. Then add the third party UI of your choice (which you can then shut down if you happen to need all the hardware at your disposal and restart when you don't) and an application base to suit.

This also has the advantage that when you're adding stuff on you don't run into incompatibilities with OEM O/S customisations or deliberate hamstringing by the network operator.

Best of all you get (and only pay for) what you want rather than what some Twitbook-fixated marketing arsehat in Korea or Taiwan thinks you want.

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Anonymous Coward

Agree with Bill

I like to use my Smartphone with a keyboard or Redfly and I like resistive screens as well as I like to do detail work on the screen in the cold! The only option we now have the SE X2 with WM6.5.

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Silver badge

Size matters

A phone will never be a laptop replacement, the screen's simply too small.

Let's face it, for any significant business use the MINIMUM size a screen can be is one that will display a whole A4 page at a readable resolution, in a portrait orientation It doesn't actually have to be 298x210mm, but it does have to have the size and resolution so you can see, read and edit a standard sized document. My Dell's 15inch screen is good enough, but phones just can't cut it.

Recently I've been using an Acer Aspire 751 with it's "massive" (the advert's word) 11.6 inch screen. It's hateful. Fine for it's intended use of playing 16:9 movies, but useless for me to work on. Apart from not being big enough, the format of a wide, thin screen is no use for document work. You can only get less than half a page's height on the screen and scrolling hither and yon gets in the way of focussing on the content. Same with websites, which are almost all designed for tall pages, not wide ones.

Anyway, back to phones. Since you'll never get a decent sized business friendly screen on a phone, you'll have to carry a lappy for work. You can't go pulling that out of your case everytime a call comes in, so it's necessary to have a phone too. The smalled the better: all it has to do is let you talk to people and occasionally fumble your way through sending an SMS. No more than that: no games, calendar (though date & time on the screen is nice), applications or browser - the experience is just too frustrating.

So far as Windows 7 on a phone goes. I simply don't care. So long as I can press buttons and talk to people, what's inside it is simply irrelevant. It's only an appliance - the workings don't matter.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, that makes 2 of us then

I feel like I'm not alone anymore!

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Silver badge

Qtopia

The earlier PDA edition was a miniature windows style GUI and needed a stylus. I ran email, VNC, VOIP, calculator, Opera, text editor on it.

The later Phone edition had finger friendly buttons but almost no applications. Better design for a 320x240 screen and pointless design for a 4.3" 800x480 screen.

My tests since 1987 show that the typical 1/4 VGA is a novelty for Apps (I have an E65 with such a screen and really email, web browsing, IRC, VNC, Putty are pointless, it's a phone and media player). The minimum IMO is about 4" 800x480, or maybe up to 5" wider screen (longer but still fit pocket) maybe upto 1200 x 600, or at least 960x 480 square pixels 2:1 screen.

Series 7 Phone is Microsoft's last chance. They are now less than 9%. Honestly the GUI sounds better suited to a 1/4 VGA (320x240) candy bar, clamshell or slider than a Smart phone with suitably large display. The iPhone even is just too small a display, though much better than 1/4 VGA.

So really Win Mobile 7 is several years behind Qtopia in thinking?

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Flame

Get an Nokia N900

Debian Linux. I have had Open Office run on it. It's true multitasking, has a decent keyboard, good mailclient and decent browsers. Try one and you know MS shafted you all those years with their 'Windows Mobile'.

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Gates Halo

So what else is new?

I am sorry but this is a bit of a silly article. It is the usual ignorant anti-Microsoft nonsense that completely misses the point.

Windows Phone 7 Series is a phone platform:

Exactly. Unlike you, the majority of people will use it as a phone that does other things on the side.

But it will never be a portable computer:

No. It is a phone platform.

And after more than two decades of waiting, is that really too much to ask:

Somewhat. You are barking up the wrong tree. If you want a portable computer that you can use as a phone then wait for an iPAD that you can fold and put in ya pocket.

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I think the problem is...

That MS don't know that it's a phone platform.

They've been touting WM as a portable application platform since it launched (remember all the fuss they made about Pocket Outlook, Pocket Word and the rest?).

Now WM7 is being launched as a multimedia communications platform with little focus on the apps or the phone functionality.

Perhaps if the various "Pocket X" applications on the earlier versions had sucked a bit less (e.g. you couldn't even view HTML emails until something like late v5 or early v6, I forget which), then the platform might have had a chance at taking some of the market that Blackberry have.

I think WM7 is finally a step in the right direction for them, but we won't really know until there are a few devices on the market.

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