Action on the mobile front

A lot of action on the mobile front this week. On Tuesday, Microsoft took the wraps off Windows Mobile 5.0 at Mobile & Embedded DevCon 2005 in Las Vegas. This release of Microsoft's OS for smartphones and mobile devices features spruced-up versions of Microsoft Office software, persistent memory storage that retains data when the device runs out of power, Windows Media Player 10 Mobile and hard drive support.

Microsoft says these and other enhancements were in response to requests from device makers and mobile operators looking to differentiate themselves and give end users more handheld options. Among the most requested features, according to Microsoft:

• Increased platform flexibility to accommodate push-to-talk, video calling and conferencing

Network support for higher-bandwidth 3G networks, Wi-Fi for the Smartphone platform and better Bluetooth support

One-handed operation with soft-key integration, landscape display orientation and QWERTY keyboard support

By adding Windows Media Player 10 Mobile and support for internal hard drives, Microsoft has made it possible for device makers to build smartphones, PDAs and other devices with enough storage capacity to compete with Apple's iPod.

On Wednesday, the World Wide Web Consortium announced the launch of the Mobile Web Initiative (MWI) at the WWW2005 Conference in Chiba, Japan. The initiative is to recognize the mobile device as a first-class participant, and will produce materials to help developers make the mobile Web experience worthwhile, says Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director.

If you've ever used a something like a smartphone to cruise the Web, then you already know that finding what you're looking for is about as iffy as getting your roof fixed by a guy with vertigo.

What MWI aims to do is bring some order to chaos by first focusing on best practices and mobile device descriptions. The Mobile Web Best Practices Working Group will develop guidelines to help content providers develop Web content that works well on mobile devices. The Device Description Working Group will help develop a database of descriptions that content authors can use to adapt their content to a particular device.

Then on Thursday, Bill Gates was quoted in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as saying he doubted Apple could sustain the success of the iPod. "I think you can draw parallels here with the computer—here, too, Apple was once extremely strong with its Macintosh and graphic user interface, like with the iPod today, and then lost its position."

Well, that's a real shockeroo, isn't it? If anyone knocks Apple's iPOD off its perch, I doubt Microsoft, or anyone else, for that matter, will do it.

Nokia, Sony, Samsung and a few other makers of fancy phones are sure going to give it a shot. Late last month, for example, Nokia introduced a line of smartphones, one—the N91—features a 4-GB hard disk, support for 3G WCDMA, WLAN, Bluetooth and USB 2.0, Microsoft Media Player 10 and line-in, stereo recording. The phone also supports MP3, M4A, AAC and WMA digital music formats. It appears on desktops as a hard drive and also syncs up to a desktop's Windows Media Player. Nokia's phone is based on the Symbian OS, which has an installed base of more than 25 million 2.5 and 3G phones.

About the Author

Michael Alexander is editor-in-chief of Application Development Trends.