A few reasons why I think Windows Mobile will die

Posted on 11/14/2007 @ 8:33 AM in #Non Techie by | Feedback | 4278 views

Okay the brand-name might not, but the current incarnation and philosophy behind WM, will I think die.

Here are a few good reasons.

  1. Bloat - the average WM device looks like the russians made it, compared to say an iPhone, which has better capabilities, graphics, memory, and a much smoother experience.
  2. Constant hanging - I know software is complex. Why? because what it tries to do is pretty complex. Historically however, what survives in the long run is a simple solution to a complex problem. WM was stripped down from windows, so it is inherently more complex than was necessary - this leading to bullet #1 - Bloat.
  3. ActiveStink - need I say more. Oh wait, they painted lipstick on the pig in Vista, and now it's called Windows Mobility center or something like that - except it still breaks.
  4. Competition - Palm was a fancy calendar organizer, that grew into a smart-ish phone. Not much competition I say. But with Android and iPhone, WM will find a need to reinvent itself.
  5. The compact framework - has seen no significant architecture overhaul. It was less than ideal to begin with, and it stayed there. In contrast, Android is all about writing apps easily.
  6. The browser. WAP/MHTML/ and the pocket IE, will all die. If it is possible to fit safari on your phone, it should be possible to fit IE on the phone. You don't realize the kind of difference this makes, until you actually use it. Imagine, every single site you use on your desktop, just works on your phone, in the same fidelity. What use is mobile internet access, if you can't really use it?
  7. The sad deployment story - Look how easy it is to deploy even illegal applications on iPhone. And Apple has actually been trying to make that harder :-). Now in contrast, try deploying a simple WM app, that checks for the existence of the compact framework, and installs the compact framework if it didn't find it.
  8. Memory - this might actually get solved. But, i can't get my head around the fact that iPhone has 8 gigs, is 1/3rd the thickness, but an HTC phone has 64MB, and resembles a brick. Yeah I know all those gay expandability insert chip stories. But why should I insert a chip? Remember way back you had to insert a chip in your PC to boot it up - it was called the 8" floppy. Speaks of inferior technology.
  9. Support - ASP.NET, and heck even SharePoint 2007, OOTB support WM rendering. But practically speaking, writing a website that renders content appropriately to a WM device, is a lot of additional work. It is justified in only certain very niche scenarios. No wonder we haven't seen much of an uptake on the WM6 web programming side. Seriously, why not just put a real browser there so we wouldn't have to worry about it.
  10. Bye bye start menu. Why? Because that tiny screen is just not right for the desktop experience.
  11. Graphics. It does matter to the end user, and the hog that WM6 is, leaves no room for a hungry graphics chip.
  12. HTML email. Okay, I've tried WM6, and it's HTML email sucked. WM5 didn't have even that. 'nuff said.
  13. Being left behind - How much of WCF/WPF/Silverlight love has been showered on WM6 so far? Especially silverlight, NEEDS to be on WM6.

I see some serious re-engineering in the WM6 platform y'all!

Sound off but keep it civil:

Older comments..

On 11/14/2007 9:05:40 AM Miha Markic said ..
And I just bought HTC TyTN II WM6 device this saturday. You should have published this article last week. And now I am stuck with a brick.

Thanks, thanks, Sahil :-P

On 11/14/2007 9:47:09 AM Jim Losi said ..
I agree 1000000%. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about the WM software and noted how desperately I wanted to ditch it in lieu of an iPhone. My xv6700 was "ok" for what I needed it for but Apple nailed it when they released the iPhone. The story of Microsofts' life... playing catch-up with the rest of the industry. Then I saw what google was up to and I said to myself, "MS would be wise to ditch the current WM arch and just use Android." Hey, Apple did it with their OS (in using FreeBSD). Alas, it won't be purely Microsoft, do they'll never do it.

On 11/14/2007 10:05:42 AM Scott said ..
I can live with the bloat etc. as long as it keeps Outlook in synch for me. But, Mobile Desktop / ActiveSync is by far the most frustrating piece of software on my desktop. I don't know how many times I have cursed those bits.

On 11/14/2007 10:41:28 AM Paul Wilson said ..
I love my Windows Mobile phone (PPC 6700 via Sprint). Why? Mostly because unlike any other pocket sized phone, it is customizable to the nth degree. There are many today plugins and other apps that make it work just the way I want it to work. I also love my slide-out keyboard which many of these devices have since that allows you to really use it for calendaring, contacts, tasks, emails, and more, plus that also allows the screen to be that much bigger and usable. The very active development community around these devices is also proof that things are better and easier than you believe -- there are even easy to use custom rom builders for those that really want to customize.

On 11/14/2007 11:38:46 AM Sahil Malik said ..

Trust me, you are a very small and shrinking minority.

Most of us buy Washing Machines, Light Bulbs, cars, and oh yes "Phones", to make our lives simpler, not more complex.

In fact, that is what I like about the iPhone. I know it will get upgraded at Apple's will/mercy/effort. But I never need to worry about "Will my phone work today!". It just works, never freezes. Oh and the battery life is awesome too.


On 11/14/2007 11:39:49 AM Sahil Malik said ..
Scot -

iPhone does an "ok" job synching with outlook. The only thing it leaves to be desired is over the air synching, which is largely mitigated for email atleast, by gmail.

What it doesn't do well unfortunately is calendar. You can't add a .ics to your appointments directly (which is just silly).


On 11/14/2007 11:40:42 AM Sahil Malik said ..
Jim - I broke my VZW contract to get an iPhone, and I think I'm happy with my decision. I'd be happier if VZW offerred the iPhone though :)

On 11/14/2007 11:41:08 AM Sahil Malik said ..
Miha - will an iPhone work where you are?

On 11/14/2007 12:02:39 PM Miha Markic said ..
Hi Sahil,

Note first: I was just kidding. My votes go to TyTN II (WM6).

Mostly because I really don't like Apple's locking policy, both locking to a phone provider and disallowing custom development (I mean "true" applications that run on the top of the OS - somebody correct me if I got it wrong). Also, with PocketPCs there is more choice in hardware so I can pick whatever model I want/need.

About locking policy: I got my TyTN II at relatively low price for exchange of signing a two year contract with phone provider. And the thing isn't locked at all AFAIK (here I might be wrong, but still, you can buy a untied device for a higher price). Sounds to me as a better policy to customers. The development is not that bad, either.

Now, to a notice to Apple entusiasts out there before I get flammed (again): I am a developer and like to have control over my device, plus I like to buy a PocketPC device that fits my needs.

Besides that, the argument for me is really pointless as Slovenia is ignored by iPhone so far and I can't get a device over here, at least not an unhacked one.

On 11/14/2007 1:34:18 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Miha -

Can't argue with the "I'm a dev, and I like pain" theory you have going on.

I'm a dev, but I'm also a rather busy guy. I like my stuff to work, without me having to build the damn thing first.

It's exactly why I prefer windows over linux, and iPhone over WM6. :-)


On 11/14/2007 2:00:53 PM Josef Rogovsky said ..
Sahil, I couldn't agree with you more!

I'm already planning an app for Android that I won't be able to to do in WM until Silverlight is supported.

On 11/14/2007 2:47:29 PM Miha Markic said ..
It all depends on what are you doing with the thing.

On 11/14/2007 2:58:40 PM Sahil Malik said ..

Here is what I do with my phone.

- Mail

- Make calls

- Voicemail management

- Calendar

- Note taking

- Web Browsing

- Stock Quotes

- Weather


iPhone does all of the above, except RSS and calendar are sub-par. RSS should have been a thick app, but reader.google.com is pretty nice.

WM6 is better at calendaring, but worse at everything else.

And no, I absolutely, vehemently DO NOT want to spend anymore time configuring what I paid my hard earned $ for to simplify my life, and save me time.


On 11/14/2007 4:35:25 PM Jamal said ..
I agree completely. I initially bashed the iPhone badly because my Treo once was the greatest phone invented, in my very narrow mind. But after spending about an hour playing with my friend's iPhone, oh how the tide has turned. This weekend I will be coughing up the $175 to break my 2 year contract with VZW (which only has 4 months left) to jump aboard the iPhone bandwagon. I've been trying to hold out but I'm getting sick of having to soft reset this phone every damn day, missing calls because it's froze up and i don't realize it until a few hours later when I try to make a call and it's unresponsive, bluetooth intermittent between my car and my headset, and the list goes on. I just want something that works ... and having a very pretty UI is nice as well.

On 11/14/2007 5:27:41 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Jamal - I did the same. Until I tried one, and saw the value it brings. Damn even emails on it look 200x better.


On 11/14/2007 7:18:32 PM Arne Claassen said ..
Wow, been trying to defend WM6 over Android, but I can't argue with any of your points. I personally don't want an iPhone because I want input I can use without looking. Currently have the xv6700, which turns out to be a good PDA but a crappy phone.

As a dev, the deployment issues are the ones the are the worst. ActiveSync, ugh. .NETCF 1.0 is primitive and has a huge TextBox bug. There's no patch, i can't create an installer that checks and install .NETCF 2.0 and WM6 is still not really out there despite being available for months. Windows Mobile is moving way to slow for a platform like the phone. Between WM6 being announced and shipping, iPhone gets announced, ships and makes WM6 look a stone-age PDA.

I'll withhold judgment on Android until i see it in the market.

On 11/15/2007 5:49:08 AM Sahil Malik said ..
Arne -

You can type on an XV6700 without looking at it?

I couldn't do that. BTW, I was playing with my old XV6700 yesterday (after not having used it for about 2 months now), and seriously, I don't miss it one bit :). Which is why I then wrote this blogpost :)


On 11/15/2007 2:07:03 PM Arne Claassen said ..
Sahil -

Once i start an email and get typing, i've gotten pretty touch-typist with the dual thumb action. It's definitely the fastest next to a real keyboard. But the lack of a hard number pad still gets to me. The HTC S710 and S730 are to me ideal form factors. But VZW doesn't carry them. If there was an Android version of one of those two, I might have to break my contract and get back into Java, because .NETCF 2.0 is still behind the curve of .NET and even if .NETCF 3.5 was released tomorrow, without a simple install path, it won't get into the wild for another year or more.

On 11/16/2007 8:16:48 PM Speednet said ..
I'm not so sure about your comments that Android makes programming simple. To me, it seems overly complex, and is Java based (yuck). It does not look simple to me.

On 11/16/2007 10:47:28 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Speednet, is WM6 simple? And what exactly about Java is so yuck?

On 11/17/2007 2:10:19 PM Иван А. Ильин said ..

Russkih lyudei obizhayut!

Russians offending people!

On 11/17/2007 10:50:59 PM angry russian said ..
it's just because average WM software looks like indian contractors wrote it

On 11/17/2007 11:02:38 PM Sahil Malik said ..
LOL NBAH and Angry Russian. Okay, what I really meant was .. "Soviets" .. i.e. communist era.

Okay if it makes you happier, it looks like the russians made it but outsourced it to Indian contractors.

On 11/26/2007 9:51:01 AM Rob Garrett said ..
Sigh - this is another one of those "my phone is better than your phone" conversatons that ranks up there with "Mac is better than Windows because...".

Sahil, you had a WM6 device and thought it was the best thing since sliced bread since you purchased your IPhone. I agree, the WM6 has it's issues, but I think you're not being objective....

1. You're comparing WM5 (constant reboots and crashing) with I-Phone. WM6 is vastly superior, and the version you had on your XV6700 was a cooked version, and so doesn't count, most people I speak to who have WM6 never complain about crashes or reboots.

2. You've not mentioned any of the negative things about the I-Phone, and there are pleanty problems with it from what I hear.

3. The XV6700 is 2 years dated now. When this thing hit the market the IPhone was just a rumor. Besides, your comparing WM - an OS, with the IPhone - hardware. It won't be long before we see WM6+ devices as thing and sleek as the iPhone.

4. Activesync, yeah, I'll give you that, but what has Apple got? iTunes? Comon man.

On 11/26/2007 4:32:06 PM Sahil Malik said ..
Okay, I did have WM6, and that had the same issues. Yes it was cooked, but even the uncooked versions have the same issues. No idea who you're talking to, obviously they haven't really used both iPhone & WM6 yet. Plus I rememeber a certain Rob Garrett telling me once how much he liked WM6, as it was SOOOO much faster and less crashy than WM5. I think he had the cooked ROM too :). heheh!

Yes iPhone has a few negative things. Search my blog, I've been loud & clear about them.

Okay fine, XV6700 is an unfair comparison, but they are still selling it :), with no updates in sight eh? Okay fine, lets pick the latest blackjack etc. They're still inferior. Even the newest HTC touch is both cheaper, AND inferior AND lesser selling than the iPhone.

And as you're saying, it won't be long before we see WM6+ devices as sleek as the iPhone. Maybe. That is the only way it will continue to keep the market share it has.

Oh & for the record, iTunes, is FAR better than ActiveStink. Not once have I had to re-pair my phone with iTunes. Everytime I plug in the iPhone, it detects and synchs without any hassles. It hasn't screwed up my data, even once.

But don't be too depressed, WM5 & 6 synch with Windows Media Player. Except, I never wanted my WM5/6 device to synch with Media player, but it still insisted on doing so. :). Not only that, it flipped to a different tab, synched, and interrupted the video I was watching.

Finally, I've owned both WM & iPhone, and I think iPhone is far superior. This is not an argument that has the tiniest hair of doubt, this is a slam dunk conclusion. Gotta say man, you don't have an iPhone :), so you can't really pass an unbiased judgement, now can ya?

Just admit it, iPhone is superior and Iraq didn't have WMDs.

On 2/12/2008 8:48:00 AM C_r_A_i_G said ..
This was a great read. Thanks to all you have contributed. I currently use an xv6800 (uncooked)extensively and it has been flawless. Previously I have run the xv6700 (cooked and uncooked, Motorola Q, Motorola Q9M, and the Pantech Flip Smartphone from Verizon. I am curious about the iPhone and I have just one question. When you have a Microsoft Exchange Server, will iPhone accomodate connectivity like WM5&6?

On 2/12/2008 12:46:47 PM Sahil Malik said ..

iPhone will work with Exchange over IMAP. So it doesn't offer the same experience.

Here is a good comparison of iPhone vs. WM6



On 3/18/2008 11:07:02 AM Paul L said ..
Hi Sahil,

I just wanted to say that you are spot on about all your observations on the user experience of the iPhone vs WM6 <insert device here>. Over the weekend I jumped the shark from my AT&T Tilt WM6 "uber does everything and more" phone to the iPhone and I'm not looking back.

Sure, if you only compare the phones feature for feature, it's obvious that the Tilt has a lot more bullets going for it. But lets be honest, if we compare the user experience between the two devices (or WM6 itself), the lack of innovation and experience in the WM6 platform is just abysmal. The funny thing is that it is Microsoft who constantly espouses UX but it is very clearly not a priority on this "PDA first, phone second" OS.

My experience with the iPhone is that everything it does it does well and it "just works". As you noted, there are some features that are (strangely) not implemented, but so far I have not missed them. I'm looking forward to the 2.0 firmware update in June to give me back everything I liked most about my WM device - Exchange push and sync.

To anyone who is contemplating the iPhone versus WM, I'd invite you to go to your local Apple or AT&T store and spend 5 minutes with the iPhone and I think the choice will be pretty clear which is more user-friendly and, I'd argue, at the the end of the day, more functional.



On 3/18/2008 11:21:37 AM Sahil Malik said ..
Hey Paul - I've owned the iPhone for about .. 8months/1year now. I've loved every moment of having it, I'd do it all over again.

Though, did you hear that Silverlight 2.0 is being ported to WinMo? If that happens in the near term, you just might see WinMO to begin to not suck :).

But as of today, WinMO sucks, and iPhone rocks. Also in June, you will be able to ActiveSync with it over the air. (ActiveSync over the air is actually nice, on the desktop it totally blows).

All I can say is .. bring it on :).

My prediction is around a midyear refresh of iPhone hardware, we'll see 3G in the next ver.


On 3/18/2008 11:22:09 AM Sahil Malik said ..
BTW, on a different note, try the browser. That has been a huge advantage of having an iPhone. The full fledged browser, no mobile crap.

On 5/14/2008 6:29:40 PM Zoltair Wright said ..
"the average WM device looks like the russians made it"

Ironically, one of the best software developers for WM is SPB, a Russian software house. Their applications solve a lot of WM's day-to-day usability problems.

On 11/2/2009 3:26:35 AM Joe said ..
I know this is a extremely late post since i just came across this article. I think you are all wrong b/c Windows Mobile is not bad like how all of you say it is. I use on loaded with WM 5.0, and to be honest, i never had a problem with it. It does at time have its quirks, but everything gets fixed with a soft reset (and the only real time i do that is to refresh my device. I feel like especially Sahil's remarks are condescending to people like Paul Wilson and i want to say f*** You! I use many 3rd party Apps that will blow the precious iPhone our of the sky like the browser Skyfire, which supports Flash, Silverlight, AJax, and all other extensions for the web and view everything as if i was using my desktop.

Granted it is not the best platform (that is to be debated, and i think it is the best platform) but seriously, all devices are made for different people and personalities and needs. I like the iPhone, but the fact that WM provides yet another element to the whole ecosystem especially in combination with Windows Vista and now Windows 7. I really can go across devices seamlessly and natively remote into my computer, retrieve files for music, video, docs, images. Also, WinMo has a big community backing the OS, yet i think it is a bit scattered so it is hard to keep track of it. Win Mo should not be easily dismissed.