Non-boring version of Microsoft Mobile Windows - landscape! portrait!

by Guy Kewney | posted on 25 March 2004

You might be forgiven for expecting something earth-shattering, but the Big Announcement by Microsoft, yesterday, of a second edition of its hand-held operating system Windows Mobile, seems to contain little more than support for landscape format windows. Oh, and speech recognition for phones ...

Guy Kewney

The ballyhoo for the landscape, at yesterday's Mobile Developer conference, DevCon, in San Francisco, hasn't struck sparks. And if Bill Gates's presentation at the show, held jointly with VSLive! and AVIOS~SpeechTEK event in San Francisco sets the Thames on fire, it will be hard to see why.

Of course, Microsoft didn't call the announcement "support for landscape." Instead, it said it "continued to deliver on its commitment to mobile and Microsoft Windows developers" by unveiling the new Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software which, it insisted, was "focused on enabling unprecedented hardware innnovation and application development."

And then it unveiled support for allowing users to switch from normal phone (portrait) format into normal PC (landscape) format at VGA and quarter-VGA resolutions ... and also! - for square format screens.

The speech recognition announcement was splendidly backed by all the big names. "The Beginning of Speech as a Mainstream Technology" said Microsoft, and called upon its partners. It listed them.

"Along with the Bill Gates speech announcing the general release of Microsoft Speech Server, SpeechTEK Spring 2004 includes demonstrations of speech technologies and solutions built by companies that have worked with Microsoft during the development of Microsoft Speech Server and as part of the Microsoft Speech Partner Program."

It then said that among the companies at SpeechTEK Spring 2004 are such leading communication technology companies as Intel, Intervoice, ScanSoft, Envox Worldwide, Voice Automation, Gold Systems, Redmond Software, CYGCOM and Tata Consultancy Services. Are these all "partners"?

The idea that this will mean that people can talk to phones, and be understood for much more than they can be today, has to be optimism on a vast scale. Humans are ideally designed to understand human speech, and we keep getting it wrong; the notion that a phone will ever be much better than a clever dog at the job is probably a dream.

The mobile developer conference has impressed commentators ... not necessarily with the importance of the announcements, however. According to MS Mobiles it's boring. Lots of money spent, yes; but interest?

"The keynote speech of Bill Gates however will be as usual boring," said the reporter. "This guy simply doesn't like cell phones - his biggest hobby is playing with his Tablet PC devices," it continued "and these stupid SPOT watches" it concluded and then, in case you missed the point: "Bill Gates has no idea whatsoever about cell phone industry, so his keynote will be again boring."

Yahoo said it was important - "Bill Gates expanded on the company's vision for Seamless Computing for developers," said the PR announcement. "He was discussing a wave of technologies that empower developers to build connected, information-driven applications, and rich interfaces and experiences."

This turned out to be Microsoft Speech Server 2004, Windows Mobile 2003 Second edition, and "continuing momentum for MapPoint Location Server, and the Visual Studio 2005 Community Technology Preview program."

Boring? How can anybody say that?

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