Windows Mobile OS — On Its Last Breath?

ripArguable, the Apple iPhone is one of the most successful smartphones on the market. Its slick, flashy user interface and tie to the Internet for data retrieval are its most attractive features. Its only downfall is the exclusivity on the slow and spotty AT&T Network.

Other phone developers and cell phone carriers are following suit, creating smartphones that run a similar iPhone operating system (e.g., Google’s Android OS and Palm’s WebOS). Touch screen, finger flicking, swiping, and pinching, full web browser, etc. are all typical features that users expect from these high-end smartphones.

Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS has been around for quite a while, and compared to the iPhone, Android, and WebOS devices seems archaic. It is very apparent that the Windows Mobile OS is based on the Microsoft Windows Operating system with its popup menus and standard dialogbox screens. I’ve been using a Motorola Q phone (with Windows Mobile 5 OS) for a few years now, and it routinely hangs when I try to access an application, screens don’t display properly, and I’m forced to pull the battery out and restart quite often. Definitely not as slick or user-friendly as the more modern touch screen OSes.

Recently, I’ve been working on an application for the Palm Pre WebOS smartphone. The Palm Pre is basically running a lightweight web server and your applications are simply web pages running javascript routines. So if you’re a web page developer you should be able to create Palm Pre apps fairly easily. As such, applications on the Palm Pre are not compiled code and the source code is completely exposed (and thus, unprotected). I must note, that this is a similar approach that Apple first made available for the iPhone. Applications were basically web pages running on an iPhone web server, and users complained about slowness and lack of real usefulness. As such, Apple later released a C++ compiler to allow developers to create more powerful applications.

Whether you use the web page or compiled C++ approach, the more modern finger swiping applications are what users find appealing. In my opinion, the old Microsoft Windows-based OSes are too cumbersome and old for the modern smartphones. Thus, I don’t think the Windows Mobile OS will be around very much longer in its current form. As a Windows Mobile application developer, I can honestly say that software sales have diminished significantly over the last two years. As such, I’ve been focusing my efforts on developing apps for the newer devices such as the Palm Pre.

Now, Microsoft might pull a rabbit out of their hat with a brand new mobile operating system that is based on their Zune media player OS. I have a Zune 80 (and soon, a new Zune HD) which in my opinion has a user interface superior to the current Windows Mobile OS. I especially like the interface for the Zune HD which has an OLED touch screen and relies on finger swiping and pinching as the main user input. If Microsoft updates their next mobile OS to be more like the Zune’s, I think they have a standing chance of re-entering the smartphone market.

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