My recent column on Windows Mobile spurred a great e-mail exchange with a member of the WinMo team. In response to my raising the anti-trust spectre, he noted that carriers can and in some cases will easily turn off Windows Live Messenger and Live Search. Fair enough, but the abysmal state of most third-party multi-network IM implementations combined with WinMo’s general awkwardness makes alternatives unappealing to the consumer while the price of third-party offerings probably reduce their appeal to carriers.
Sharing that I believe basic, text-based IM to be as much of a utility as SMS, I suggested that Microsoft create an extensible IM architecture similar to that of Trillian and pre-load it with Live Messenger. Assuming the other IM providers or third parties supported that, you’d have the prospect of better OS integration that could be pursued by carriers or consumers. Search choice is even easier. Microsoft could simply provide a way to change the default search provider (probably no more than rewriting a URL) as it does in IE7.
There are two more recent Windows Mobile thoughts that I didn’t get to address in the column. First was the news a while back that RIM will offer a virtual Blackberry for Windows Mobile. You have to admire RIM’s aggressiveness with this move as well as its focus on selling server software. The BlackBerry sandbox will outperform BlackBerry Connect and could isolate a corporate resource. I foresaw this kind of sandboxing last month in a column describing the conflict between digital life and digital work. However, the proliferation of Windows Mobile has to support the deployment of Exchange ActiveSync/Direct Push, and that’s ultimately a challenge for RIM.
Speaking of which, I’ve been using a BlackBerry 8800 for the past week or so and it is easily the best BlackBerry RIM has ever produced. I was initially wary of the keyboard but it’s as satisfactory as most others. Also, the sides seem to flex a bit so it doesn’t feel as durable as previous RIM handsets. Still, the design and trackball make it a winner.
Second has been the unveiling of Silverlight. Microsoft’s rich-content, cross-platform environment, aka, Flash/Flex-killer. Looking at fluid mobile phone user interfaces such as those on the iPhone or the LG Prada phone quickly confirms that this approach has the potential to provide a much more delightful user experience to smartphone users. I would be surprised if future versions of Window Mobile don’t dump the current desktop-inspired UI in favor of an animation-rich one that leverages Silverlight.