March 23, 2006



Posted: 07.01.05

A Change in the Weather

According to one insider, the newest mobile OS from Microsoft aims to speed convergence and ease business productivity.
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By Eric M. Zeman

Though Longhorn may be a bit behind schedule, Microsoft recently announced the third version of Windows Mobile in as many years, and John Starkweather, manager of Microsoft Mobile embedded devices division, is really excited about it. Responsible for product marketing across the Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded product lines, Starkweather has been with Microsoft for four years and his achievements include the launch of the first Windows Mobile–based phone in the United States. Prior to joining Microsoft, Starkweather worked in the wireless and telecommunications industry for nearly 10 years in a variety of product planning and marketing roles at companies such as Siemens and Sierra Wireless, where, in cooperation with a number of mobile operators, including AT&T Wireless, Bell Atlantic and Sprint PCS, he deployed CDPD—an early wireless data technology.

Mobile Enterprise: How does Microsoft view the mobile market?

John Starkweather: Business spending is increasing once again and opening new opportunities. Several years ago, the talk of convergence (smartphone/PDAs) and blurring the lines between different types of devices piqued our interest. Microsoft hopes to move that along.

ME: What does the newest release of Windows Mobile offer?

JS: What we heard from our customers is that they want device choice, but they want to be able to perform certain functions, such as one-hand use, on certain devices. There are three major changes to Windows Mobile, and they are improvements in customization, productivity and multimedia.

ME: Explain these in more detail.

JS: Microsoft has over 40 device-maker partners and over 70 mobile operator partners. Each wants to be able to offer products that meet specific market needs, such as hardware with media buttons. Windows Mobile now offers support for completely changing the user interface, such as using a grid view, or customized navigating based upon the device or operator brand. They want to be able to offer products that do what their customers want but are still familiar and consistent across the platform. The consistent underlying architecture remains so developers can write for it. We’ve also added Wi-Fi support to smartphones, and qwerty and softkey support to Pocket PC. You can do everything on a Pocket PC without ever using a stylus.

ME: How is Microsoft differentiating between smartphones and PDAs?

JS: Our long-term strategy is to bring the two platforms together completely. They already share more than 90 percent of the same code. We want application compatibility to be seamless, which is why users can now view PowerPoint files, including graphs and animations, on their Windows Mobile device. Users will see dramatic night and day differences. Using Windows Mobile is much closer to the actual PC experience and the formatting is not lost when syncing files between devices. On the Outlook side, we’ve made improvements to its syncing capabilities and how users can interact with their in-box, calendar and contacts.

ME: Any other noteworthy improvements?

JS: We’ve placed technology to support push-to-talk on future phones. Another addition is persistent storage for Pocket PC. If the battery dies, all user settings remain, including everything stored on the device such as contacts and calendar info. Windows Mobile also supports hard drives, which we’ll see more and more on phones. Business users can now carry around all their necessary office documents on their phone. •
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