Posted by: Frank | November 16, 2008

Burn The CD

My T-Mobile G1 that runs Android arrived at my house several weeks ago, missing something that has shipped with every single Windows Mobile device I have ever owned, a CDROM. The missing CD may not seem significant in this day of the Internet where you can easily download and install ActiveSync from a web site than use a CD, but the significance of its exclusion to me is for what it represents. All mobile devices running Microsoft operating systems, from the original Handheld PCs to the current Windows Mobile devices have been designed by Microsoft to be an extension of either the Windows desktop, or now Microsoft Exchange. True, you can always run a Windows Mobile phone without connecting it to a desktop PC or Exchange, but you won’t have the full experience that Microsoft intended.

We can debate whether Android is intended to stand alone or be an extension of Google’s applications, but Android is different in not needing to ever connect to a PC. Even the iPhone has to be connected to iTunes to be updated, while so far my G1 has received two updates over the air. Because Google applications are in the Internet, calling Android an extension of them is like calling it an extension of the Internet itself, which I don’t think a device can do. Android doesn’t extend the Internet, it connects to it and uses it. You may think I am just arguing semantics, but to me there is a big difference. It is a shift, I believe, from using devices that are designed to be a part of something else, towards using devices that are designed to stand alone and provide an entire experience

This difference is fundamental and beyond pretty user interfaces and touch screens, because one path leads to re-creation of what we have seen and done before, just in different packaging, while the other path leads to something entirely new. As Microsoft works diligently  on the updates to Windows Mobile that are no doubt intended to respond to the iPhone and Android, it will be making a serious mistake thinking that all that needs to change is the user interface and navigation model. For Windows Mobile to finally stand out, it needs to finally stand on it’s own.


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