The Sharp End: HTC, Microsoft and the future of handsets

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Thanks to Brightpoint I last week became the proud owner of the latest in touch devices, the HTC HD. The HD is very similar in physical size to the Apple iPhone but with a larger screen packing a heck of a lot more pixels.

The screen resolution is simply superb and makes viewing the on-screen menus, keyboards and other options far easier for those of us with maturing eyesight.

Operation of the HD is nearly identical to working its predecessor, the HTC Diamond. With TouchFlo 3D, the only difference being the addition of a Stocks and Shares tab (does anyone use these?) – and, because of the better screen resolution on the HD, the tabs are clearer and better spaced out.

This makes using the TouchFlo 3D interface so much easier and comfortable.

I won’t go into too many details regarding the actual specs of the HD as these are fairly common knowledge now.

Suffice to say the HD far exceeds the iPhone on paper. The iPhone has a marginally more fluid interface, but the far better spec of the HD means, for me at least, the HD is currently my phone of choice.

I have long been a fan of Windows Mobile devices but would be the first to acknowledge the user experience with Windows Mobile leaves a lot to be desired.

But Windows Mobile devices are suddenly extremely well specified and perform well thanks to the fact manufacturers have realised (thanks to the iPhone) the user interface is just as important as the underlying specification.

HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson have all recently released some very good-selling phones but have managed to overcome the traditional bland and unintuitive Microsoft Windows Mobile interface by creating their own interfaces on top of the Windows Mobile operating system.

Handsets such as the HTC HD, Samsung Omnia and Sony Ericsson X1 have proved a good interface goes a very long way to extending the traditional reach of Windows Mobile phones.

Microsoft itself has stated it will release Windows Mobile 7 sometime late 2009 but may release an interim Windows Mobile 6.5 before. Let’s just hope Microsoft takes a leaf out of Apple’s book and does something to dramatically improve the user experience.

Or at least hope handset manufacturers continue to experiment with improving the experience.

One thing that is needed for Windows Mobile handsets – and Microsoft has already announced it is working on it – is the inclusion of dedicated access to Windows Mobile software and applications from the handset.

Apple has had phenomenal success with its App Store link to hundreds of software titles for the iPhone.

There are already thousands of software titles available for Windows Mobile but there is no central resource for them. Users have to go “hunting” to find them and that is a barrier. The main source at the moment for software is Handango but most titles are not free.

Microsoft will be launching its own version of the App Store called Skymarket. but this won’t be available until well into 2009. Microsoft needs to get all things in place for Windows Mobile as there are now several very viable alternatives in the market place.

To read Jez’s discussion about the future of handsets see Mobile News issue 428

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