Saturday, December 27, 2008

Can Microsoft make its future mobile?

Microsoft going mobile ...

"You want a phone that can do it all? Internet, music, photos, films, documents, texting, instant messaging, diary, contacts and ... err ... phone calls?

Then a smartphone is right for you. But as the market for high-end mobiles gets ever more crowded, which should you pick?

The global market leader, Symbian, makes the software that runs most of Nokia's smart phones (and a few others).

Research in Motion with its e-mail friendly Blackberry devices has cornered the corporate market and is pushing into the consumer space.

Apple is minting it with its sleek but expensive iPhone. And only a few months ago internet search giant Google entered the field with its Linux-based Android software, designed to power internet-savvy mobile phones.

Oh, and then there is Microsoft. For years the giant of desktop computing has tried to push into the mobile phone market - not without success, but ultimately remaining a niche player.

Two things held Microsoft back in the past: technology and usability.

For years mobile phone technology simply wasn't advanced enough to play to the strengths of devices that were actually mini computers.

Windows Mobile and other smartphones were held back because they had to "live with the hardware capabilities of the past; key pieces were missing," says Andy Lees, the boss of Microsoft's Mobile Communications group.

The Achilles heel

But the real Achilles heel of Microsoft's devices was their abysmal user interface - firmly wedded to the look and feel of old-fashioned computer desktops, a concept that doesn't work on small screens.

At long last this is changing, although it is not Microsoft doing the job. Instead, phone manufacturers are busy building user-friendly interfaces to sit on the Windows platform.

Take Samsung's Omnia, for example, an all touchscreen phone that tries for an iPhone look and feel without being a rip-off.

It largely succeeds, with its 5 megapixel camera, highly useful expansion slot and overall good looks. On the downside, its touchscreen can at times be infuriating while Samsung's interface designer clearly is not a graduate of the Apple school of cool.

HTC's Touch Diamond is another contender. The Taiwanese company has been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of what can be done with the Windows mobile platform. Many smartphones sold under the labels of network operators like T-Mobile and Orange are actually HTC designs."    (Continued via BBC NEWS, Putting People First. Tim Weber)    [Usability Resources]

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