Microsoft Turns the Screw on Rival Mobile OS Vendors

With Windows Mobile 5.0, Microsoft's strategy is to break down the distinction between smart phones and Pocket PC devices, says Mike Hall, technical product manager in Microsoft’s mobile and embedded devices group.

“In the previous releases, the Windows mobile OS recognized two very distinct device types: smart phones and Pocket PC,” Hall tells MobileAppTrends. “In the Windows Mobile 5.0 release, that distinction is going away. The UI, the way that you work with the devices, the exposed APIs on each of the devices—it’s all now extremely similar. That makes it much easier for developers to target both devices.”

Ovum analyst Tony Cripps believes Windows Mobile 5.0 supports this strategy, while offering manufacturers greater potential to differentiate devices by form factor.

"Breaking down arbitrary device platform distinctions should help developers," Cripps says. "Just ask Symbian or mobile Java developers how frustrating platform fragmentation can be. And Microsoft has further turned the screw on rival mobile OS vendors by tightening the integration with its development environments and technologies."

Windows Mobile 5.0 supports development in both native and managed code, and it introduces new APIs and classes for both platforms.

Managed code developers get a suite of Windows Mobile 5.0-specific libraries, including new common dialogs, configuration, telephony and full access to Outlook Mobile data. One of the more interesting APIs, Hall points out, is the new State and Notification Broker, which provides a unified mechanism for storing device, application and system-state information. The API, by default, exposes around 100 different events that a developer may register for notification. It also gives developers the ability to register their own custom events.

“Say you’re writing an application that captures GPS data and does something interesting with that,” says Hall. “You can register your GPS event with the notification broker API, so that other applications can be aware of what is happening with that GPS data. You can have multiple apps all chewing on that same GPS data for things like location-aware capabilities.”

"Microsoft has listened to user demands and acted on them,” Cripps concludes. “In some cases it's now demonstrably ahead of the competition—most notably in the increasingly tight integration of the OS with Microsoft's development tools offerings."

It's been five years since the first Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs shipped from three hardware manufacturers. Microsoft says that about 40 device makers and 68 wireless carriers plan to ship products and offer services based on Windows Mobile 5.0.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].