Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Just How Bad is Windows CE?

Lately, I've been developing concurrently on the iPhone and Windows Mobile. The .Net Compact framework is actually pretty good compared to the iPhone SDK but the user interface of Windows Mobile is just so very, very awful. I can't think of anyone who has tried absolutely anything else and like this. I can't even think of anyone liking this period. Considering how good a job Microsoft is doing with its general and server operating systems, how is it possible that they are even willing to release this product in the first place? Considering the quality and usability of the desktop and server systems that Microsoft puts out, Windows Mobile isn't even worthy of calling itself Windows. Sure the underlying kernel and technologies are pretty solid but it doesn't change the fact that the user interface is just crammed for such a small screen. I was using this the other day just to make a call and kept thinking to myself how many people I know wouldn't even be able to answer or make a call with this thing.

The real problem with Windows Mobile is that it isn't trying to be a really good phone, it's trying to be a pocket PC which not so coincidentally was its original brand. It just doesn't have the screen real estate to pull that off.

At WWDC 2008, Apple announced 3G iPhones that are actually cheaper than the current models. This is bad news for every smart phone vendor out there. I see really two segments now, the people who just want a basic phone, and the people who want an iPhone. The iPhone is really just that disruptive of a technology. I can't explain in words just how horrible it is to start using another smart phone again. Furthermore, it's the only phone that I have encountered that makes mobile web browsing viable.

So what is everybody else doing? Well, you have things like Android and the Samsung Instinct which are clearly heavily influenced by the iPhone but neither are yet available. The iPhone 3G, with its 7 Mbps Internet access, goes on sale early July of this year.

All is not lost for other vendors however. Let's face it, even with its new focus on the enterprise with the iPhone, Apple is really not very good at dealing with businesses and developers at this scale. Those users won't put up with half the things the regular Apple fan boy puts up with. If you're in the iPhone developer program right now, you probably don't like Apple very much. The things they make you do to actually deploy an application to real hardware is pretty obscene. At this point, I think it's Apple's market to lose. We'll see if Apple will learn a bit of humility here and open up this platform instead of imposing their will on everything closely related to the iPhone. This is really where the door is open for something like Android to come in and really give iPhone a run for its money.

We'll only know for sure over time but Google, now more than ever, needs to get real hardware out into the wild and at the very least refresh the Android public SDK. The Android SDK drop is still the one from last March and, thanks to controlled leaks, doesn't look or feel anything like the Android of today.

So just how bad is Windows CE? Well, it's so bad I don't even think it's a contender anymore. Let's face it, convergence is still ever creeping in. In a few years, your primary computer will probably be your phone that you cradle to get a full sized screen and keyboard. This is already happening, just have a look at the Celio REDFLY. I would think this makes Microsoft pretty nervous.