Mobius 2005: The Report

By Jason Dunn on Friday, December 16, 2005

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I wrote this off and on during the sessions at the recent Mobius 2005 conference. It's a bit stream-of-consciousness, so you'll have to forgive me if it tends to ramble a bit, or switches tense. I had hoped to have this published sooner, but after my flight home was delayed by 5 hours which got me into bed by 3:30 AM, the next few days were a bit of groggy write-off as I tried to dig myself out of a mound of email and tasks. I didn't write about every session - I took bits of pieces of what I found interesting and relevant.

I'm down here in lovely downtown Seattle for Mobius, a conference that Microsoft puts on every 12-16 months for a mix of mobile device community leaders, journalists, and analysts. Full disclosure: it's an all-expenses paid trip (hotel + airfare) for most of us, though some people paid their own way, and we always end up getting some goodies to take home and play with. The real focus of Mobius is to bring together the leaders of the top mobile devices communities and Web sites, to show them what Microsoft is up to, and to have discussions with them about the mobile space.
Windows Mobile 5 & Applications
The first presenter was Ford Davidson. He spoke on a variety of topics, but I'll focus on the ones I felt most interesting. First up, we have an official unveiling of Office Mobile. Some of the details were sketchy - in fact, most of the details were sketchy. No firm date for launch. No word on pricing - maybe it will be free? They were a bit tongue-in-cheek when they were discussing it. I brought up the confusion of having an Office Mobile suite that was essentially a series of viewing tools, but having Word Mobile on the Pocket PC which had editing capabilities. They're in a bit of a branding nightmare here, and it will only get worse if they decide to remove the Word and Excel Mobile applications from the Pocket PC and somehow try and replace it with Office Mobile. They didn't mention they were planning on doing that, but they need to unite all these pieces somehow.

Figure 1: A table-top view of Mobius 2005

Ford also showed off Communicator Mobile, which interfaces with Live Communications Server (LCS). He talked about being able to do VOIP calls, but it required him to be on the Redmond LAN. LCS sounds interesting, but I'm sensing another massive disconnect between LCS and MSN Messenger, even worse than the whole Windows Messenger/MSN Messenger confusion. I know some Microsoft people that are using LCS and apparently they can't add MSN Messenger users to their contact lists - I have no idea if this is correct, or a permanent situation, but the single worst thing you can do in a situation like this is break people into two groups and not allow them to communicate with each other.

And I finally saw the Treo 700w. Ford did a bit of a demo, showing us the things that Palm added to the 700w to make it have the "Palm experience". The small, square screen looked pretty cramped, especially the today screen. I know they did 240 x 240 for performance and battery life reasons, but the Windows Mobile user interface is just too big for a 240 x 240 interface. When you press the talk button, you get a pop-up menu that shows the recently dialled numbers. There's also photo speed dial, allowing you to click on a photo to dial the number of that person - nice touch! There's a search toolbar on the today screen - you can type a term into the field and it will search Google (and presumably open the results in IE Mobile). Video caller ID has also been added - rather that being able to only select a photo, you can select a video that will play when a call from that person comes in. Seems a bit useless to me personally, but it's neat.

Next the Samsung i300 was shown - this Smartphone has a 3 GB hard drive built-in. Being able to use the keypad to automatically filter through hundreds of songs is very cool - you start typing the name of the artist, or the song, and it will filter through the content and show you what you want. Very cool! Of course Windows Media Player 10 mobile hasn't been improved much with Windows Mobile 5 - it still won't auto-discover new content without you telling it to, and it still picks up ring tones and other sound files instead of just music. I can't blame WMP10 Mobile too much though, because its desktop counterpart is equally dysfunctional in this regard.

Figure 2: The HTC Prophet. Full sized image.

Next he demoed the HTC Prophet. It's the same size as the I-Mate Jam, and has a good solid feel to it. I'm not sure what the casing is made of, but it looks great and doesn't show fingerprints like most black shells, so that's an improvement in my books.

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