WinMo Withdrawal

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I Want a New Drug from MobilitySite reflects my growing disenchantment with Windows Mobile. The author, Steve Laser, is a long-time Windows Mobile user who is growing weary of this outdated OS and frustrated with the slow pace of change. That description fits me also, though I don’t entirely agree with his take. Let’s discuss his article.

Mr. Laser’s main complaint is about the user interface (UI):

“But when it comes to using the device, ultimately I have to pull out a stylus, and that’s where my frustration lies.  When a customer calls and I need to look at the notes in his contact information or look up product information in my device, I get very frustrated by having to pull out the tight-fitting stylus and navigating a bunch of menus.”

I think this complaint is a bit overdone. I don’t need a stylus to navigate. My finger works fine, especially on larger screen devices. WinMo is not as touch friendly as, say, the iPhone 3G, or my BlackBerry Storm. But touch works OK. The UI is a little kludgy, but again, not too bad.

The author also opines that Windows Mobile requires a steeper learning curve for new users than competitors such as the iPhone 3G, BlackBerry or Android. I’d agree as to the iPhone 3G –- its designers did a wonderful job of making that device user-friendly –- but I’m not sure I’d agree regarding the BlackBerry. Based on my wife’s experience with the Bold, the BlackBerry has its own learning curve.

Mr. Laser recognizes that “a WM device has more capabilities, is more tweakable, has a huge software base”, but of course “the vast majority of users are not looking to reflash ROMs, or edit the registry.” He then raises (and answers) an interesting question:

“[W]hat is a power user?  Is a power user someone who endlessly upgrades roms and software, tweaks the endless amount of settings and spends hours hacking away at the user interface, or is a power user someone who makes tons of calls, emails and text messages?”

“I think both are power users, but they are very different types of power users.  One is a power user and the other is really a power tweaker.”

Hmmm … I’m not sure I like the connotation of being called a tweaker, especially in an article which includes the word drug in its title. But then again, while I flash a new ROM every week on my WinMo device, I wouldn’t like to be called a flasher either. In any event, he’s right that there are far more potential Windows Mobile customers who are power users than tweakers. His point is that, for true power users, Windows Mobile is harder to learn and has an inferior UI to its competition.

But what about the future? There will be new versions of Windows Mobile. Unfortunately, version 6.5 won’t be out until later this year, and probably will represent only an incremental improvement over the current version 6.1. Version 7 could be a remake from the ground up, but it appears to be a long ways off. So by the time Windows Mobile catches up with its current competition, that competition may have passed it by.

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