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Mr. Hromadka goes to Redmond

Monday September 10, 2001 - 4:39 AM EST - By James Hromadka


Möbius 2001While Alan is busy with his return trip from his VisorAdventure, last weekend I had an adventure of my own. I visited Microsoft for its first annual Möbius conference and had a chance to check out an iPAQ running Pocket PC 2002 (hereafter Merlin). Have I ditched my Visor Prism and "gone to the Dark Side?" Of course not, but Palm needs to quit wasting time and release a new version of its operating system -- not just small revisions that copy features from its licensees. Below is a summary of what I saw over the course of two days in Redmond.

What I did see was impressive. Microsoft is definitely catching up to Palm in usability, but it still has a ways to go. Merlin has some useful features for prior Palm users, such as Block Recognizer, which is essentially Graffiti for the Pocket PC, and the ability to beam single addresses and appointments to and from Palm-based devices. Other appealing features are built-in VPN and a Terminal Services Client. The Merlin is aimed squarely at business users, but does have some interesting consumer features such as skinning and a MSN client.

Clay ShirkyOver the course of two days, myself and other influentials in the handheld industry received a tour of the Merlin and a few goodies in addition to the iPAQ. We also heard from various Microsoft people, some consultant who tried to express the importance of revenue sharing but came off as someone who loves ring tones, and Clay Shirky, who had some very interesting points regarding peer-to-peer (P2P) applications. I won't go into details here, but you can find some great information at his website about the importance of P2P and the failure of closed architectures such as WAP. His was the most insightful presentation of the conference, and I was surprised to see him, given his articles on Hailstorm and Slashdot.

But the most valuable thing that I took from the conference was in our group-based discussions on topics such as "the zen of mobility" and "the über device." Many of the participants expressed that their zen was simplicity. Who cares about the device if it is too difficult to use? Even one of the Microsoft representatives mentioned the wow-factor of the first time she used the VisorPhone. It just works.

The Über Device >>

Story Sections
The Über Device
Voice Recognition
Parting Thoughts

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