My Thoughts and Opinions

I'm an opinionated sucker, and thought I'd share some of my thoughts and opinions with you. If you have any comments on them, feel free to post them in our Thoughts & Opinions forum (you will have to register first).

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Windows Mobile New Year's Resolutions

January 4, 2009
(Updated January 25, 2009)
(Updated May 3, 2009)

Hi, I'm Windows Mobile. People have been talking smack about me lately. Some people have praised the iPhone, Android and even RIM's BlackBerry as being more innovative. Some people have even said I'll be gone by 2011, and lots of people wonder how I'll respond to stay in the mobile game.

With all that doubt, I thought I'd post my list of New Year's Resolutions about how I'll do better. Here's what I think would make me a better operating system in 2009 (whether I'm called WM 6.5, WM 7 or something else). I don't know if I can do all of these, but I sure can try. And there's always 2010 for the rest....

I've categorized the various resolutions as shown here:

User Interface Resolutions

My user interface is probably the thing most people criticize about me (at least on touchscreen devices). They say it's too difficult, too old, to clunky and so on.

Also, I've hinted for years that the Pocket PC (Classic and Professional) and Smartphone (Standard) versions of Windows Mobile would converge. You've seen some of that when I added softkeys to Pocket PCs in WM 5, Office Mobile to Smartphones in WM 6 and limited copy/paste to Smartphones in WM 6.1. I've also described some convergence items above where the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms differed in specific areas, but there's more to do.

Why is convergence important? Because it allows people to switch between touchscreen and non-touchscreen devices more easily. It also removes a lot of the confusion when discussing Windows Mobile. Users won't have to clarify which version they're talking about as much.

Here's a list of the areas I'll improve.

Touch-Friendly User Interface

Ever since the iPhone came out, people have been paying more attention to touchscreen user interfaces. My Pocket PC flavor has always been a touchscreen interface, but it's not really finger-friendly. Sure, you can use your fingernails to navigate it, but it could be easier.

What I'll do is create a finger-friendly user interface. This will be the interface that people see when they first start up a new device. However, I'll also have a Settings applet to allow reverting back to the "Windows Mobile Classic" stylus-friendly interface. Why would people want this? Because there are a lot of useful functions that the stylus enables. Read Why Windows Mobile Needs A Stylus for more information.

Obviously, most of these changes won't apply to my Smartphone flavor because those devices don't have touchscreens. However, there may be some changes that I can apply to both platforms, and I'll take advantage of those opportunities for convergence where I can.

The Start menu

Why is the Pocket PC Start menu a drop-down menu and the Smartphone Start "menu" more like the Pocket PC's Programs folder? Because the Pocket PC Start menu required a stylus (or button) to access. However, for consistency, I can make the Pocket PC Today screen's left softkey just like the Smartphone Home screen's, which would allow accessing a Smartphone-like Start folder.

Even better, in the Start folder's menu, I'll add options to view the items as a grid or list and toggle text captions so you don't need a registry hack, and I'll add a text-only view for accessibility reasons (allowing the font size to be larger for nearsighted users). I'll also allow you to specify some favorite programs or folders which are always displayed first without resorting to another registry hack.

Of course, I'll still keep the Pocket PC's drop-down Start menu because it allows easy switching of programs and access to other features regardless of what program the user is in. If you don't believe me, read Why We Love the Windows Mobile Start Menu. However, the Programs item in the drop-down Start menu will just take the user to the Start folder. Also, the list of favorite items in the drop-down Start menu will be the first six favorite items configured to display at the beginning of the Start folder.


Why is the Smartphone Settings menu all text while the Pocket PC Settings menu is icon-based? I don't have a good answer for that. The Smartphone version can't have tabs like the Pocket PC version because tabs don't work well without a touchscreen, but it could be a grid of icons (like, um, the Start menu). I'll make the WM Standard Settings menu graphical, but I'll also allow a text-only version for accessibility reasons as mentioned above.


One of the best features of WM Smartphone/Standard is that it was designed to be controlled with one hand; you can navigate the whole phone using your thumb (if you hand isn't too small). Unfortunately, this means that some features on the Pocket PC are difficult to implement, like copy/paste from any application (how do you select text on a Web page, for example), context menus or tab-based interfaces.

To fix that, I'll add menu-based access for all of functions on the Pocket PC. This may require an on-screen cursor mode for text selection and context menus, but applications like Skyfire can do it, so why can't I?

Even better, once I do that, I can add those same capabilities to my Pocket PC versions, allowing it to be used one-handed. Currently, there are some Pocket PC features that require a stylus and are not navigable from the keyboard and directional pad. Selecting text and tap-and-hold context menus are obvious instances, but you also need a stylus to switch folders or change the message sorting order in an E-mail account. Allowing stylus/finger shortcuts to improve access is great, but you should never require a touch. That will also give me a big advantage over the iPhone, which sometimes requires two hands.

Startup Screens

Why do I have two completely different start up screens — the Today screen on the Pocket PC and the Home screen on the Smartphone? Probably because the Today screen is more touch-friendly, but even the plug-in system is different. Once I resolve the touch navigation issues mentioned above, I can converge the two startup screens so they can accept both types of plug-ins.

Web Browser Resolutions

Besides the user interface, IE Mobile is probably complained about the most. Even though my browser was the best built-in mobile browser for years, that's no longer the case. Here's what I'll fix to improve things.

Tabbed browser support

MultiIE, Pocket Plus, Opera Mobile and so on have proven that tabbed browsing is possible in Windows Mobile. I'll make it standard in IE Mobile.

Better support of HTML, CSS & JavaScript

I'll support full HTML 4.0 & XHTML at least (if not HTML 5), CSS 2.0 and JavaScript 1.3 (or whatever the current level is). I hope that will fix problems where users visit a banking site that says JavaScript must be enabled even though I've supported JavaScript for years.

Text Searching

I'll add the ability to search for text on a Web page. If you get to a page via a search engine, it's not always easy to find where on the page the search terms are. A search action would make it easy.

Better font size control

Even with the text size set to Largest, many Web pages are difficult for nearsighted people to read comfortably. I'll either allow more text sizes or allow overriding the text size specified in the HTML (preferably both).

Web page navigation

I'll add support for easy Top of Page and Bottom of Page navigation, especially on the Smartphone (without registry hacks).

Link Viewing

I'll add the ability to view the URL a link goes to. Currently you have to visit the link and look at the address bar to get the URL, but you should be able to preview the URL before going to the page. That's also a good security practice to ensure you aren't visiting some hacker site. Some browser extensions (like MultiIE) allow it, so why don't I?

Improved browser options

Browser options on the Pocket PC and Smartphone versions of IE Mobile are different. For example, the Smartphone shows how much memory is allocated to temporary files, cookies and history; the Pocket PC shows how many days of history you're keeping, but doesn't display any memory usage information. I'll show the memory used on the Pocket PC and allow specifying how many days to keep on the Smartphone. Besides that, I'll converge any other options on both platforms.

I'll also add options to turn JavaScript on and off (without resorting to a registry hack), disable CSS (for mobile-unfriendly sites) and spoof the desktop User Agent for sites that do browser checks (there's a registry hack, but it's not easy).

Browser plug-ins

I'll try to get Java, Flash, QuickTime and Real plug-ins. I don't expect Microsoft to create them, but Microsoft should encourage Sun, Adobe, Apple and Real to create them. (I may be getting Flash now that Microsoft has licensed it, but I don't know when.) That will make my users' browsing experience better.

E-mail & Messaging Resolutions

I've always had decent E-mail function, but people still praise the BlackBerry as having the best E-mail experience. Here's what I'll do to step up my game.

Better HTML viewing

I added HTML mail in WM 6, but it's limited. For example, users can't control the view like they can in IE Mobile. Worse, the Click to scroll right link reformats E-mail to make it even wider, forcing more horizontal scrolling. There should be One Column, Fit To Screen and Desktop options, just like in IE Mobile. I'll add those in the View sub-menu.

If a control is still necessary to toggle scrolling on and off, instead of having a control embedded at the top of the E-mail which is hard to access in long E-mails, I'll also add that in the View sub-menu.

I'll also move the control to download pictures to the View sub-menu for the same reason, and allow toggling HTML viewing on and off instead using the Get HTML action which only works if HTML isn't your default E-mail preference.

Better font size control

Even with the text size set to Largest, much HTML E-mail is too small for some nearsighted users to read comfortably. Just like in IE Mobile, I'll either allow more text sizes or allow overriding the text size specified in the E-mail (and maybe both).

E-mail folders

You can create new mail folders on Pocket PCs, but not the Smartphone. Why not? That allows users to create a folder to save E-mail that they want to keep on their devices, but they can't do that on WM Standard phones. The best they can do is move E-mail to the Drafts folder.

I'll fix that in an upcoming release of WM Standard.


I'll allow using the Follow up action in non-Exchange E-mail. I know that it won't sync with POP or IMAP servers, but users deserve some way of flagging items in their Inbox.

Of course, I'll make this work with Text and MMS messages, too.

Account renaming

I currently don't allow users to change their E-mail account names. The account name is only really used to display in the main Messaging window (and some menus), so why can't users rename it? It's because the name is buried in some system database where users can't change it (even with a registry hack.)

If you made a mistake in the name but didn't notice it until the account was created, or if you want to change the name for some reason, you shouldn't have to delete the account (and any E-mail in those folders) and create a new one. I'll provide a way to rename accounts in WM 6.5 or 7.

Viewing full E-mail headers

I'll add the ability to view full E-mail headers. The ability to check full E-mail headers can help determine if something is spam or not. I can also allow forwarding the E-mail with full headers to report spam or abuse.

Message Counts

The Pocket PC version displays both the total number of messages in a mail folder and the number of unread messages. The Smartphone version only displays the number of unread messages. The total number of messages is very useful, allowing you to get a feeling for how much storage your mail folder is using. I'll fix that discrepancy on the Smartphone.

PIM Applications Resolutions

Personal Information Management (PIM) applications are the heart and soul of a PDA. I've always had decent PIM applications, but they could use some improvements. Here's what I'll change.


People find how I handle time zones confusing. To fix this, I'll provide time zone setting drop-down lists for appointment times (preferably both start and end times for things like flights). This will make it easy for users to enter time correctly in the Calendar without being surprised that their appointments "jump" when they change the device's time zone.

I'll also provide an option to view the Calendar relative to a specific time zone without having to change the time zone in the Settings. That will allow you to see how appointments look relative to that time zone.

In the Smartphone version of Calendar, I'll expose the Categories field. The Pocket PC version allows setting categories, so why shouldn't the Smartphone version?

Finally, in the Smartphone version, I'll allow specifying a reminder time more precisely. The current limited selection of 1, 5, 10, 15 and 30 minutes, 1 hour, 1 day and 1 week just isn't sufficient.


I'll provide a Tasks application on the Smartphone equivalent to the version on the Pocket PC. The Smartphone version is ridiculously underpowered and I've always been embarrassed by that.

UPDATE: The above was true in the Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone version of Tasks. However, the Windows Mobile 6 version seems to have the same function as the Pocket PC version.


I'll support more E-mail addresses, IM IDs and Web sites. This will probably require changes to Outlook, so my friends on the Outlook team will have to add them.

Simiarly, I'll also support synchronizing contact pictures, ring tones and speed dials so that getting a new device (or creating a new partnership) won't require setting everything up again.

Finally, I'll also add Prefix, Middle Name and Suffix fields that exist on the Pocket PC to the Smartphone. If there are any other fields missing from the Pocket PC, I'll add those, too.


I'll add support for more alarms. When I added landscape mode support in WM 2003 SE, the number of alarms I supported dropped from 4 to 3. Worse, my Smartphone version only seems to allow one (although WM 6.1 may support two). I'll allow the user to add as many he wants and have a scrolling interface. I don't know why I didn't do that previously.

Snooze times

I'll support more snooze times. Again, the number was reduced when I added landscape mode support, but it shouldn't be that hard to allow more. WM 6 (at least on the Smartphone) brought back the 10-minute snooze, but that's still not nearly enough.

How about a menu with the following options:

  • 5 minutes before
  • Minutes
    • 1
    • 5
    • 10
    • 15
    • 20
    • 30
    • 45
  • Hours
    • 1
    • 1.5
    • 2
    • 4
    • 8
    • 12
    • 18
  • Days
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  • Weeks
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5

Maybe I'll even go retro and add an entry field to the reminder dialog to allow specifying the snooze time and a drop-down list for the units. That's what Windows CE used to have, and it allows a lot of flexibility because the user could snooze any length of time desired. If I do that, I'll still provide the menu to allow quicker snooze setting.

Recurrence exceptions

I'll improve how I handle exceptions to recurring appointments and tasks (although this may require improvements in Windows Outlook, too). Changing the series of a recurring appointment says that all exceptions will be lost. I can understand why exceptions in the future would be gone, but appointments in the past, exceptions or not, shouldn't be affected. Changing past appointments can ruin the ability to accurately find when a user did something, which is bad for people who bill for time.

Certain changes, like changing the end date of the series from No end date to a specific date shouldn't even affect future occurences before the new date.

Finally, when a reminder fires for an exception where the location has changed, I display the original location in the reminder. That's just silly (especially when the correct location is shown on the Today/Home screen). That can cause people to go to the wrong place for meetings, so I have to fix that.


I think a single view of the applications would be useful, so I'll add that (and an Outlook Mobile shortcut). I'll still keep the original Calendar, Contacts and Tasks shortcuts to allow accessing the view you want directly. I'm not necessarily talking about adding full Pocket Informant functionality here, just a way to make the PIM applications seem more like Outlook on the desktop.

I also allow linking Contacts to each other or to Calendar and Tasks items. That will allow more easily accessing information. I'll probably have to talk to my friend Outlook again to see if I can synchronize those links, but I think linking is worthwhile even if they don't sync.

Phone Applications Resolutions

I have lots of useful phone applications, but there's always room for improvement. Here's what I'll change in the upcoming year.

Call History voicemail tagging

People love the iPhone's Visual Voicemail, and I have to admit that it is cool. Even other phones, like the BlackBerry Storm, have it now.

What I'll do is add voicemail icons to the Call History program. That way you can see all of your calls at once and see who left voicemail. I think that provides the best of both worlds.

Of course, this will require carrier support, but if they can do it for other phone systems, why not for me?


I think profiles are one of the coolest features on my phones, but there are still improvements I could make.

First, I'll add profile support to the Pocket PC platform. I'm not sure why I haven't done this before. I'll even add it for Classic PDAs — the volume changing can still be useful.

Second, I'll enhance profile support by allowing user-created profiles. I'll also allow specifying criteria that invoke the profile like the time or system events. For example, you could have a profile engage at night when you go to sleep and shut off in the morning when you wake up.

Another useful ability would be to have a profile for a specific user, so if you got a phone call, E-mail or text from the user, a specific profile would start up. This would be useful for expectant fathers waiting for a call that their wife was in labor. Even if your profile was set to Silent or Vibrate for a meeting, your normal notification could occur.

Speed Dials

First, I'll provide some support for Speed Dials to work anywhere, not just on the Home/Today screen. I could do this by having the user press the Send button quickly followed by the speed dial code. If you're playing music or navigating with GPS, having to access the Today or Home screen makes it harder to get back to that program.

Also, I'll add support for Speed Dials on Classic PDAs. Because Speed Dials also work to launch applications, they'll be useful on PDAs that have keyboards or use an external keyboard. For example, some external keyboards have drivers that allow mapping Function key combinations to programs, but those could just launch the appropriate Speed Dial application instead.

Photo Caller ID

People complain that pictures shown in Caller ID are way too small. I'll provide an option to select how big you want the photos to be.

Media Player Resolutions

I was one of the first (if not the first) platforms to include media playback capabilities. However, digital media has really taken off, and I haven't really kept pace with it. Here's where I can make improvements.


I'll add support for more audio and video codecs like AAC, MPEG1, etc. I'll also support user-installable codecs to allow support for less-common media formats, like OGG Vorbis or FLAC.


I used to have the ability to create and edit playlists, but it was removed in WMP 9 or 10 for no apparent reason. I'll add that back — and make it better than it was.


I've had voice recording capability for a long time, but it's fairly basic, and many devices with cameras allow video recording. I'll now allow recording with specified codecs; video shouldn't necessarily be 3GP and audio shouldn't necessarily be WAV.

Zune support

I've heard that a lot of people like the Zune user interface, so I'll make that my default interface. However, I'll also allow using my old interface and support switching skins in both. That will give people the best of both worlds.

Other Application Resolutions

I have lots of other applications besides those mentioned above. Here are some places that I can improve myself.

Windows Update

I've had the ability to update myself, but nobody uses it. This isn't really my fault, but carriers and OEMs need to support it. I'll try to convince Microsoft to require its use.

Also, I'll try to expand its use to allow updates and upgrades that don't require a hard reset and losing all of your programs and data. If Apple can do it on the iPhone, I'm sure Microsoft can figure out how to do it, too.

File Explorer

I'll improve my File Explorer significantly. For example, I think having a two-pane, multi-column view where you can sort by various criteria would be great.


I'll provide a Search application on the Smartphone. The Pocket PC has one, so why shouldn't the Smartphone?

Office Mobile

Adding Office Mobile in WM 6 Standard was cool, but I forgot something — the ability to create new documents. Sure, there are programs to work around that, or you can just copy empty Word and Excel files to your phone and save them with new names, but why should you have to? Instead, I'll fix this major oversight.

Synchronization Resolutions

One of the best things I do is synchronize with Outlook, but I've actually lost features over the years. Here's what I'll try to fix in upcoming releases.

Category syncing

I'll bring back category synchronization. It works for WM 2003 SE and earlier, so why not WM 5 and later? This allows keeping all of a user's PIM items on a personal PC, but only their business-related items on a work PC.


I'll also bring back back up and restore. It works for WM 2003 SE and earlier, so why not WM 5 and later? I realize that persistent memory eliminates some of the need for it (unless you do a hard/clean/master reset), and it wasn't the greatest or fastest way to back up and restore your data, but it was useful and better than nothing.

Network syncing

I'll bring back network (especially WiFi) synchronization. It works for WM 2003 SE and earlier in ActiveSync 3.x, but was removed for "corporate security" reasons in ActiveSync 4.x. Now that the consumer market seems to be getting more focus, let's revisit this decision.

I suggest building remote administration into ActiveSync to allow disabling network syncing for those businesses that don't want it. I'll also turn network syncing off by default, but at least I'll allow it to be turned on.

Hardware Resolutions

I have more hardware form factors than almost any other platform, but I have some ideas to make things even better.

More application-specific buttons

I'll support more than five hardware buttons to allow OEMs to have more. Buttons are the fastest way to launch programs, so why limit people to just a few? Wouldn't you love to see devices with the four main application buttons, the voice record button and hardware softkeys?

I already sort of support this. I know somebody has used a registry hack to add a fake button that was visible in the Buttons Settings applet.

Higher device specifications

I'll support "premium" devices with higher hardware specifications, like video acceleration, more RAM, faster processors, etc. I'll also take advantage of Microsoft's purchase of Danger (the Sidekick maker) to create hardware reference platforms.

What I won't do is come on a Microsoft-made phone. That would upset my existing OEMs for no good reason. If Google can market Android without making their own device, so can Microsoft.

I hope these items will make most of you happy with me again and will prove that I'm still the most powerful, most flexible mobile platform around. Happy New Year!

DISCLAIMER: This isn't really Windows Mobile (or anybody affiliated with Microsoft) talking. (DUH!) I have no knowledge of what Microsoft may be planning for Windows Mobile 6.5 or 7. This is just a list of what I'd like to see done better, phrased in a topical (and hopefully humorous) manner.

Post any comments about this in our forums.

Why Windows Mobile Needs A Stylus

November 15, 2008

Ever since the iPhone was released, people have been saying that Windows Mobile needs to be finger-friendly. I agree (at least for Windows Mobile Classic and Professional; it's a moot point on the non-touchscreen Windows Mobile Standard). Requiring a stylus makes using a Windows Mobile device a little slower because you either have to remove the stylus (and maybe extend it) or you have to use your fingers and be much more careful where you tap (and you can lose more time by having to deal with any misplaced taps).

What I completely disagree with is people saying that Windows Mobile should get rid of the stylus completely. Why? Because you'd be giving up a lot.

Given those losses, why would anybody want to make Windows Mobile worse by getting rid of the stylus? So what do I suggest? It's very simple — a setting that allows switching between finger and stylus modes. Stylus mode would work like the current Windows Mobile system, with possible user interface improvements that might be shared with finger mode. Finger mode could be as much as a different selection system (for example, large graphic buttons instead of menus) and flick scrolling or as simple as more space between menu items and wider scroll bars.

Want more proof that a stylus is useful? You can even buy a stylus for the iPhone! There are enough people giving Windows Mobile the figurative finger lately without Microsoft doing it by getting rid of the stylus.

Post any comments about this in our forums.

My Case for Windows Mobile 2003 SE

October 14, 2004

In discussions of HP's failure to create a Windows Mobile 2003 SE upgrade for existing iPAQs, I've seen several people say that WM 2003 SE isn't much of an improvement over Windows Mobile 2003. When they say that, I do two things.

First, I point out the main improvements for existing users:

  1. Landscape mode support (and the ability to switch without a soft reset)
  2. VGA support (although it's only useful for Toshiba e800 users)
  3. Single-column Pocket Internet Explorer mode (which reduces horizontal scrolling)
  4. Transcriber shortcuts
  5. WPA WiFi encryption

There are other minor items, but I think these are the most important ones.

Landscape mode has been requested by users for years, as has a method to reduce horizontal scrolling in Pocket IE. With WM 2003 SE, Microsoft finally delivered those major, much-requested features.

The second thing I do is challenge the naysayers to name the user-centric improvements that Pocket PC 2002 had compared to Pocket PC 2000 and Windows Mobile 2003 had compared to Pocket PC 2002. Were there as many new features in those OS releases? Were they as important as the ones in WM 2003 SE?

In my opinion, WM 2003 SE is the most compelling Pocket PC operating system upgrade Microsoft has released. I would actually consider paying for it to upgrade my iPAQ 5550. I did not pay to upgrade my iPAQ 3650 to Pocket PC 2002 or to upgrade my iPAQ 3870 to Windows Mobile 2003. I think that says a lot. What do you think?

Post any comments about this in our forums.

A Rebuttal To HP's Reasons For Not Producing A Windows Mobile 2003 SE Upgrade

August 17, 2004

HP posted a thread on their support forums linking to a document detailing reasons why they wouldn't produce a Windows Mobile 2003 SE upgrade for existing iPAQs. In that document, HP listed the main features of the WM 2003 SE upgrade, why they thought most people wouldn't need them and some supposedly technical reasons for not providing the upgrade.

I posted a rebuttal in the forum, but that thread was deleted, so I thought I'd post HP's reasons here along with my refutations of those reasons.

  1. HP:

    Square Resolution, VGA Support, QVGA for SmartPhones: While the VGA viewing experience might be more enjoyable for certain users, the support is designed for products that contain VGA screens and/or SmartPhone functionality. The operating system alone does not enable these features. HP provides 3.5" or 3.8" Transflective Display Screens (depends on model) on HP iPAQ h1930, h1940, h2200, h4100, h4300, h5100 and h5500 series products, therefore these products cannot make use of these features.


    While it's certainly true that the VGA support won't work fully on the Windows Mobile 2003 iPAQs, some features may still be useful, such as font scaling. This allows users to easily resize the fonts the way they want, which could be very useful.

    Second, the iPAQ rz1715 is running Windows Mobile 2003 SE, but doesn't support VGA (as most of your WM 2003 SE iPAQs don't). So the operating system seems to have benefits even for non-VGA devices.

  2. HP:

    Landscape Support: This support provides dynamic switching between screen orientations from portrait to landscape. With the March 2004 announcement of Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, tools became available to the extended application Development Community, so the wide variety of third-party applications could take advantage of the landscape mode. While Microsoft's standard applications will function in landscape mode not all HP value-added software delivered on platforms launched prior to June 2004 would be able to take advantage of this feature.


    What "value-added software" are you referring to? If it's things like iPAQ Backup, iPAQ Wireless, etc., haven't you fixed those to work with the new iPAQs that ship with SE installed? If so, why can't those be included in the ROM image of an SE upgrade for existing devices?

  3. HP:

    Many software developers are focusing their efforts on the next release of their applications, as opposed to devising a retro-fit for existing versions. If HP added Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition to its pre-June 2004 launched products some applications would not function in landscape mode properly, and therefore providing no customer value.


    First, most software developers are incorporating SE support into existing products, while still ensuring their products work on Windows Mobile 2003 (and Pocket PC 2002 and 2000 devices, in many cases). Those aren't "retro-fits", they're upgrades, and those applications, often available for free or at reduced cost to existing users, will work in WM 2003 SE, providing much value.

    In fact, HP has it easier here. Your value-added applications (which, as I mentioned above, are already likely working correctly in SE) don't need to worry about running on any other operating system other than WM 2003 SE because they'll ship as part of the OS upgrade.

    Second, if some third-party applications don't work in landscape mode, and aren't upgraded, so what? WM 2003 SE's ability to switch between landscape and portrait without a soft reset would make it easy to work with those applications in portrait mode and switch back to landscape mode for programs that work well there.

    Even if some applications crash in landscape mode, that's not a sufficient reason to deny us an upgrade to SE. Not all Pocket PC 2000 programs worked in Pocket PC 2002, yet Compaq made an upgrade available. Not all Pocket PC 2002 programs worked in Windows Mobile 2003, yet HP made an upgrade available. Why is this suddenly being used as excuse to prevent us from upgrading to SE?

  4. HP:

    Why is ROM size a factor in deciding whether Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition can be supported on the h1900, h2200, h4000, and h5000 series?

    ROM size determines the maximum amount of software and value-added features that can be inherent to the handheld device. For the majority of models in question, HP delivers Windows Pocket PC 2003 Premium, substantial value-added software and 3rd party applications. When evaluating Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, it was determine that HP would have to de-feature its ROM deliverable and exclude a large portion of the value-added and 3rd party applications in order to fit into the existing device ROM capacity. The Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition is a larger operating system than that of Windows Pocket PC 2003 Premium Edition. The benefit of maintaining the value-added features outweighs the limited functionality that could be deployed on each of these units, especially when giving consideration to the fact that specific hardware changes were also required.


    Granted, ROM size could be a limiting factor on some iPAQs, but this explanation falls short on several points.

    First, how much larger is SE than Windows Mobile 2003? I'm guessing it's not that much larger, as you have managed to fit it in the 32 MB ROM of the iPAQ rz1715.

    Second, my iPAQ 5550 has 48 MB ROM with 17.4 MB available to the user as the iPAQ File Store. If SE is larger, I would be willing to sacrifice some of the File Store for the new features. I'm only using 5.58 MB of it, and wouldn't miss a few megabytes.

    Finally, for devices where the ROM could be filled up (like the iPAQ 2210 perhaps), there is the alternative of offering Pro and Premium upgrades, as was done for Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile 2003.

    The Premium version includes all software in the ROM image, while the Pro version omits some (Terminal Services, Reader, etc.) and includes them on a CD to install in RAM if the user chooses.

I asked HP to enlighten me if my arguments were somehow incorrect, but got no response.

Finally, while HP's list of features (along with WPA) may be the main improvements in Windows Mobile 2003 SE, they have neglected the Pocket Internet Explorer improvements. The single-column mode will be a boon to people reading Web pages, especially in portrait mode.

All told, I find upgrading to this version of Windows Mobile to be more compelling than the upgrade from Pocket PC 2002 to Windows Mobile 2003.

As a purchaser of three generations of iPAQs, I strongly urge HP to reconsider offering a Windows Mobile 2003 SE upgrade.

You can read an archived copy of the entire HP thread if you want. To see the original FAQ Word file, click the paperclip icon at the top right of the first post.

Post any comments about this in our forums.

A Requiem For iPAQ Sleeves

June 14, 2004

There have been a few articles (including this one at written recently about HP finally killing off iPAQ expansion packs (also known as sleeves or jackets). I think this is a sad day for iPAQ fans, but I think HP will also lose business for the following reasons.

iPAQ Inertia

"iPAQ inertia" is a term I coined that describes how people with current sleeve-compatible iPAQs and an investment in sleeves are more likely to upgrade to another sleeve-compatible iPAQ than to switch to another Pocket PC, especially one from another manufacturer. Once HP stops producing sleeve-compatible iPAQs, those people will either delay purchasing a new Pocket PC or start considering other Pocket PC models.

My first iPAQ was the 3650, I upgraded to the 3870 and, most recently, to the 5550. One of the reasons I chose the latter iPAQs was because I had sleeves that I used. If HP doesn't introduce any new iPAQs that work with sleeves, I will certainly consider Pocket PCs from Dell (the new X30 looks hot), Toshiba (the e805 is very good), ASUS (which has a few interesting models coming out) and other vendors. By voiding my investment in sleeves, HP is risking losing me — and other people — as customers.

You may not think there are a lot of people who want the bulk of sleeves, but I bet there are more than most people think. These are people who like the flexibility and expansion capabilities that sleves provide more than they like having the smallest possible Pocket PC. With an iPAQ, a dual-slot sleeve and a lot of money, you can have over 25 GB of memory available — two 12 GB Compact Flash cards and a 1 GB SD card. With 4 GB MultiMedia Cards on the horizon, that would give over 28 GB of storage.

Specialized Uses

Companies that need iPAQ sleeves for specialized tasks will be out of luck. They'll either have to buy up a lot of sleeve-compatible iPAQs now, hope they can find them later or switch to some other technology. If they switch technologies to something else, HP may lose sales.

Another specialized use is PC Card support. As far as I know, a sleeve-compatiable iPAQ is the only Pocket PC currently being made that can support PC Cards. Yes, other Pocket PCs in the past had PC Card support — the URThere @migo even included a PC Card slot. Unfortunately, I don't believe there is current support for any of them.

While PC Card usage in PDAs isn't what it used to be thanks to Compact Flash and SDIO peripherals, there are still uses for PC Cards. For example, one use could be 802.11g WiFi. I'm not aware of any 802.11g Compact Flash cards, but there are plenty in PC Card format (although I don't know if any of those provide Windows CE drivers).

Third-Party Vendors

Companies that make iPAQ sleeves will see their market dry up. A company like Nexian could be badly hurt. A look at their product page shows two Handspring Visor GPS Springboard modules, two iPAQ sleeves and an OEM GPS board. The Visor is no longer made, so I can't imagine there's a big market for Springboard modules. If the same thing happens to iPAQ sleeves, that only leaves them with one current product.

While this move won't hurt HP directly, it will damage their relationships with vendors.

I was asked recently if I liked iPAQ sleeves, and I had to admit that I don't really. What I like is the possibility for expansion that they provide.

In fact, I have only bought three sleeves:

A Compaq Dual PC Card sleeve

I used this with my iPAQ 3870 for my 512 MB CF card and my PC Card WiFi card. The battery in it seemed to be going dead, so I gave it to my wife when I gave her the 3870.

A Navman 3420 GPS sleeve

I used this with Pocket CoPilot for navigation. Unfortunately, it seems to have died (I would lose GPS connections and now I seem to get memory corruption in my GPS data if I use it). It has been replaced by the Haicom 303MMF Compact Flash card and Bluetooth slipper.

A Nexian NexiPak dual Compact Flash sleeve

I bought this to replace my Dual PC Card sleeve. I use it with my 512 MB CF card now and either my iBiz PocketRadio, the Haicom GPS card or a Prolink presentation card.

So I only use one sleeve, but it is an important one.

Nowadays, I'd rather have two Compact Flash slots, an SDIO slot and USB host capability built into my Pocket PC — assuming it would be smaller than my iPAQ 5550 in the NexiPak. If the largest SD memory cards ever get competitive in price with Compact Flash cards of the same capacity, I'd accept one Compact Flash slot and two SDIO slots.

Unfortunately, no Pocket PC has three slots; the only way you can get three slots is with an iPAQ and a dual-slot sleeve. Given that, I wish that HP would keep making sleeve-compatible iPAQs so I could continue to use my NexiPak. As that doesn't seem likely to happen, I thought I'd write this to say one last farewell to our trusted friends, the iPAQ sleeves.

Post any comments about this in our forums.

[iPAQ Headstone]

Why I Don't Want A Hard Disk In My Pocket PC

April 30, 2004
(Updated September 7, 2004)

There have been some articles and forum posts written recently about putting hard disks in PDAs. While the concept of gigabytes of storage is certainly appealing, I for one don't really want a hard disk embedded in my Pocket PC.

"But why not?" I hear you ask. Actually, there are several reasons.

  1. Reliability — Pocket PCs tend to be carried around a lot, and, worse, bumped. Hard disks have moving parts and close tolerances, especially microdrives. The two don't really mix well.

    Yes, I realize that the drives are designed to be carried and bumped, but, if one does go bad, having it embedded in my Pocket PC means a trip to the service center. A drive on a card can just be swapped out and replaced.

  2. Battery life — Battery life is a major concern in PDAs, and hard disks require quite a bit of power. I don't need a disk sucking my battery dry unless I ask for it.

    Yes, I suppose there could be power management software that spins the disk down after a certain period of inactivity, but then my Pocket PC will be slower when trying to access data. Also, the longer that period of inactivity before the disk spins down, the more it's unnecessarily draining my battery.

    These tradeoffs aren't anything new, of course. We have them with display brightness and timing and wireless access. All Pocket PCs have IR, which many people turn off to extend battery life; Bluetooth, WiFi and cellular in many Pocket PCs just exacerbate things. I just don't think we need one more.

  3. Portability — An embedded hard drive probably won't be removable. This means that you won't be able to move it from one device to another like you can with a memory card or current microdrives. This limits your flexibility.

    Also, if you decide that you want a new Pocket PC, your hard disk goes with the old one. Unless all Pocket PCs come with hard disks, you might end up having to buy a memory card anyway.

  4. Speed — If the drive isn't removable, you'll have to back it up using ActiveSync. Can you imagine trying to back up 4 GB (the size of newer Microdrives) over ActiveSync? What a nightmare that would be. I'd rather have a removable drive that I can plug into my USB 2.0 card reader and back up. It would be faster and more flexible.

That's not to say that I wouldn't use a hard disk in my Pocket PC (although I haven't yet). I would rather have more slots on my Pocket PC, which I could choose to put a hard disk in — or anything else I want. One of the reasons I actually like iPAQ sleeves is because they give me great flexibility — more than any other Pocket PC has or had. I'd rather have expandability and choice than an embedded hard disk. How about you?

Post any comments about this in our forums.

ActiveSync New Year's Resolutions

January 8, 2004
(Updated January 15, 2004)
(Updated May 14, 2004)

Hi, I'm Microsoft ActiveSync. This page hasn't had much new content for a while, so I thought I'd post my list of New Year's Resolutions. I know some of you nitpickers out there have complained about me, so here's what I'll do better in 2004 (or my next release, whichever comes first).

More Partners

I resolve to let you set up more than two partnerships. If you have a desktop, a laptop and a work computer, I don't help you much. Sure, there's third-party software like ManyPartners, but this is something I should fix.

More Flexible Synchronization Setup

I resolve to be more flexible about how I let you set up synchronization when creating a new partnership. Currently, I give you three options to synchronize:

  • Replace items on the device with items from the PC.
  • Combine items on the device with items on the PC.
  • Don't synchronize at all.

That's OK, but some of you actually treat your PDA as your main repository. You would like to replace items on the PC with items on the device, but I don't let you. I will this year.

More Flexible Partnership Setup

I resolve to make it easier to recover after a hard reset. Some of you may hard reset your Pocket PC every now and then to clean things up, and rumor has it that some bugs also cause a hard reset. When you go to reestablish a partnership, you might want to keep the same name for your Pocket PC that you used previously. However, I try to prevent that, because I don't want somebody else to name their Pocket PC the same as yours and mess things up for you. (This isn't very effective, of course, because that person could just choose another name, synchronize, delete the synchronized data on their Pocket PC and your Pocket PC would have its data deleted on the next sync.)

You can keep the same partnership name if you rename some folders in Windows and delete some registry entries, but that's a bit much, isn't it?

Instead of preventing this completely, if the device name already exists, I'll ask if you hard reset your device. If you say yes, I'll ask you to enter the password you used on the device the last time you synchronized. (I'll save the password — encrypted, of course — each time you sync.) If the password matches, I'll use the partnership data I had for that device to synchronize things without a hassle.

More Flexible File Synchronization

I resolve to be more flexible about how I let you synchronize files. When creating a synchronized file folder currently, I create a new directory in your My Documents folder based on your device's name. This is OK for most people, but I've heard some of you have more than one Pocket PC. Good for you! Unfortunately, I don't allow you to share the synchronized files with both of those devices. You have to manually keep the multiple synchronized files folders in sync, something I could easily do.

Yes, you could use third-party software like MightySync, but you shouldn't have to.

When setting up the synchronized files folder, the default will be the same as it is now, but I'll allow you to change it so you can point to any other directory on your PC — including another Pocket PC's synchronized files folder.

More Flexible Program Installation

I resolve to be more flexible about how I let you install programs. When installing software currently, I do ask if you want to install in the default location (usually a subfolder in the Program Files folder). If you choose not to install in the default location, I offer the following locations:

  • Main Memory (the same as the default location)
  • Any storage cards you may have in the Pocket PC
  • Any user-accessible Flash ROM area your Pocket PC may have

That's OK, but the programs usually get installed in a subfolder of the root directory of those last two locations. The default should be to create a Program Files directory there and install to a subdirectory there. However, the user should be able to override that, and put the program anywhere he wants. For example, some game programs don't install in Program Files\Games, so the user should be able to fix that.

I used to allow that back in the days of Handheld PCs, so I know it's possible. Unfortunately, I lost that ability in a bad programming accident. I'll fix that this year.

Remote Backup Initiation

I resolve to allow you to back up your Pocket PC from your Pocket PC. Currently, the only way I allow a backup to be done over a wireless connection is if the Automatically back up each time the device connects box is checked in the ActiveSync Backup/Restore dialog and the Pocket PC ActiveSync client has the option selected to maintain a connection after a remote synchronization completes. Worse, the latter option is in different places in the Pocket PC 2002 and Windows Mobile 2003 versions of ActiveSync.

An ActiveSync component was added to Pocket PC 2002 to allow ActiveSync to be initiated remotely, so why not allow Backup to initiated there, too? Good question, and I'll address that this year.

Improved Backup Indication

As long as Backup is being discussed, I resolve to display a message on your Pocket PC when a backup is in progress. Currently, I display a message on your PC telling you not to use your Pocket PC until the backup is complete. That's because the backup can take a long time, and I don't want you to get things out of sync. Unfortunately, I only tell you this on your PC, not on the Pocket PC where it makes more sense.

Because backups can take so long, it's not unlikely that some of you will do other tasks on your PC, hiding my backup progress dialog. Since you all don't have memories like I do, you might forget that a backup is in progress and try to use your Pocket PC.

If I displayed a message on the Pocket PC indicating that a backup was in progress, you'd be less likely to forget. I could even do that by popping up the ActiveSync client with the message displayed. That fits in well with the previous point, too. To be even nicer, I'll include a progress indicator showing how the backup is progressing. I'll do that this year.

Improved PIM Synchronization Error Information

I resolve to give better error messages when an error occurs while synchronizing the Personal Information Manager (PIM) data. Currently, I often give you obscure error codes that seem to make solving the problem difficult for some people. To avoid this, I'll give more detailed error messages and, if the message applies to a specific entry, I'll show you the following:

  • For Calendar items, the starting date and time and the appointment text.
  • For Task items, the task text and any start or due dates.
  • For Contact items, the contact name (or company name if there's no personal name).

This should make finding the problem much easier for you.

Improved File Synchronization Error Information

I resolve to tell you exactly which files didn't synchronize if an error occurs. Currently, I tell you how many files I couldn't synchronize, but not which ones. Some people with many files find this less than helpful.

This year, I'll display a list of all the files that couldn't synchronize to allow you to more easily fix the problem.

Support Simultaneous Synchronizing

I resolve to allow you to connect and synchronize multiple devices simultaneously. Currently, I can only connect to one device at a time. This makes life difficult for those of you with more than one device (like a Pocket PC and a Smartphone). This is especially important now that you can syncrhonize wirelessly — you don't have to have multiple cradles and cables for each device if you use WiFi or Bluetooth.

This is one that might not be done this year, though. I may have to wait until Longhorn (the next Windows operating system) is released. By then, I might even be integrated into the system (and have my name changed, too). Here's a picture of how I might look.

[Longhorn SyncManager]

If I do anything this year, I suppose that I could add a row of tabs under the tool bar. There would be one tab for each partnered or connected Pocket PC, and switching tabs would show you the synchronization status of that device. It would also allow the menus to control that device so you could explore it, back it up, add or remove software and so on.

I hope these items will make most of you happy with me. Happy New Year!

DISCLAIMER: This isn't really ActiveSync talking. (DUH!) Other than the Longhorn screenshot, I have no knowledge of what Microsoft may be planning for ActiveSync. This is just a list of what I'd like to see done better, phrased in a topical (and hopefully humorous) manner.

Post any comments about this in our forums.

Rethinking Small Keyboards

July 23, 2003

Pocket PCs are obviously too small to have a full-sized keyboard. Because of their size, we're usually forced to use a virtual keyboard or some form of handwriting recognition. Some PDAs, like the Sharp Zaurus or Palm Tungsten W, have integrated thumb boards. Almost no Pocket PCs have integrated thumb boards, but there are many add-on ones available (at least for the iPAQ).

The problem with every thumb board I've seen, and even the new Stowaway XT, is that they omit the row of keys containing the numbers. You obviously can't have a keyboard without numbers, so the numbers are placed on the same keys used for the letters and users have to use a shift key to access them. This means that users used to a QWERTY keyboard will have to relearn how to enter these characters. Even when the user gets used to the new placement of the numbers, they'll still be slower thanks to having to use a shift key.

Worse, these keyboards don't have many of the symbols contained on their full-size cousins. For example, my iPAQ Micro Keyboard does not contain the following 15 symbols:

While many of those symbols aren't commonly used, the semicolon and ampersand are used frequently in everyday writing. If you do any programming, Web development or math, you may use several of those other symbols, too. If you have to switch from the keyboard to use the stylus to access these symbols, that makes it even harder to be productive.

So what can be done about this? I think there's a simple answer -- add another row of keys for the numbers and their associated symbols. This has two major benefits. First, the user won't have to relearn where the numbers are nor will they have to relearn where the symbols on those keys are. Second, with those 20 characters moved back to their usual positions, the symbols that weren't included on the keyboard can be placed on the letter keys and accessed with a shift key.

So why hasn't any keyboard manufacturer done this? It's likely a matter of cost. Key switches cost money, additional wiring would be needed and the case would be bigger, requiring more material. Also, the larger case would make the keyboard somewhat less portable.

Those strike me as minor rationalizations, though. I know that I'd be willing to pay a couple of dollars more and have a slightly larger keyboard if it made my typing easier. What about you?

Post any comments about this in our forums.

A Suggested Upgrade Policy

July 3, 2003

After Windows Mobile 2003 (AKA Pocket PC 2003) was released, it was discovered that some manufacturers would not be releasing an upgrade for some fairly recent Pocket PCs. Specifically, HP would not be supporting the 1910 and Toshiba would not be supporting the e740 and e330. This led to petition drives against both companies.

That got me thinking about what the upgrade policy should be. Clearly, users would like their devices to be supported forever. We don't want to be forced to buy a new device just to get a new operating system.

Just as clearly, Pocket PC manufacturers (OEMs) would love us all to buy their new devices. That makes them more money and eases their support burden for older devices.

Of course, technology moves on, and users can't expect to upgrade an ancient device forever. Windows XP won't run on your old PC XT, for example.

OEMs also realize that not everybody can afford to upgrade every time they release a new Pocket PC. They also want to provide good service to build customer loyalty. Good service includes technical support, bug fixes and upgrades to newer technology.

Microsoft could probably dictate an upgrade policy, but, unlike Windows, they don't have a monopoly in the PDA space. This means they have to be more flexible with their OEMs.

So what is a reasonable upgrade policy? I think that providing support for all Microsoft End User Updates (EUUs) and one OS upgrade is a fair policy. This will guarantee that users get all bug fixes and aren't abandoned when a new OS comes out. It also guarantees that OEMs won't have to support ancient legacy devices forever, while still keeping most of their customers happy.

If HP and Toshiba had followed my suggestion, there wouldn't be any petitions out there. Wouldn't that be the best for both sides?

Post any comments about this in our forums.

One Device or Two?

April 30, 2003
(Updated April 25, 2004)

One constant theme on various Pocket PC sites is whether you want one device which is both a PDA and a phone, or whether you want two separate devices, each optimized to what it does best. I'm not going to go over the merits of the two sides, as most of them seem obvious; I'm just going to tell you what I want.

I want both:

I already carry a non-connected Pocket PC and a not-so-smart LG VX6000 camera phone, so this wouldn't give me anything more to carry than I already do. I would expect the basic PIM data on both devices to be synchronized with my main PC and, ideally, between each other (preferably via Bluetooth).

Another advantage to having both is that I could easily carry on a phone conversation and access the Internet at the same time. For example, if somebody called me, I'd answer on the Smartphone. If it was somebody who was supposed to meet me, but had gotten lost, I could use my connected PDA to go to MapQuest and give them directions. That's something I'm not even sure is possible using only a Pocket PC Phone or Smartphone.

Don't you think that would be the best of both worlds?

Post any comments about this in our forums.

iPAQ Innovation

April 21, 2003
(Updated October 25, 2003)
(Updated April 30, 2004)
(Updated August 14, 2004)

Why do people knock Compaq (and now Hewlett-Packard) for not innovating in the iPAQ? When iPAQ nay-sayers claim there has been no innovation, I like to point out all of the iPAQ's firsts. Here's my list:

Model Firsts
iPAQ 3600s
  • Strong ARM 206 MHz processor (a first in the industry)
  • Side-lit screen that's easily visible outdoors (a first in the industry)
  • Flash ROM for upgradability (a first in the industry)
  • Expansion sleeves (a first in the industry)
iPAQ 3670
  • 64 MB RAM (a first in the industry)
iPAQ 3800s
  • 64K side-lit color screen that's easily visible outdoors (a first in the industry)
  • SD support (a first, I think, although the Casio EM-500 had MMC)
iPAQ 3870
  • Bluetooth (a first in the industry)
iPAQ 3900s
  • Transflective screen (a first in Pocket PCs)
  • Consumer-level IR (a first in Pocket PCs)
iPAQ 3970
  • 48 MB ROM (a first in the industry)
iPAQ 5450
  • Built-in fingerprint scanner
iPAQ 5550
  • 128 MB RAM (a first in the industry)
iPAQ 4350
  • Built-in thumb board (a first in general Pocket PCs — although some ruggedized versions and the Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC Phone did have them)
iPAQ 6315
  • Integrated PAN, WLAN and WAN (Bluetooth, WiFi and GSM, a first in the consumer industry -- although some industrial machines, made for UPS, I believe, might have had all three)
iPAQ 4705
  • Touch pad (a first in the industry)

Without the innovations of Compaq, I don't think the Pocket PC market would be where it is today. The fact that Microsoft standardized on the StrongARM processor and required Pocket PCs to have Flash ROM in Pocket PC 2002 is a testament to that.

This isn't to say that other Pocket PC manufacturers haven't innovated — many have. I just don't like hearing about the lack of innovation in iPAQs, especially when it's not true. Innovation, regardless of who it's from, benefits us all, and we should give credit where it's due.

Post any comments about this in our forums.

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