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Windows Mobile at MWC. Microsoft's booth
With the first days of Mobile World Congress fewer now behind, we can start drawing first conclusions regarding the announced products. Windows Mobile devices, showcased at Microsoft’s joint booth will seem familiar to most of our readers from various press-releases and announcements. In this write-up we are taking a closer look at all of them.
The lowdown on Sony Ericsson’s first communicator, the XPERIA X1, can be found in our take on the devices that SE rolled out at MWC.
Now, I few thoughts from me – like Eldar noted, this handset will largely appeal to those who aren’t familiar with the platform and have no previous experience of handling solutions running on Windows Mobile. That’s why all attempts to face the XPERIA X1 off against any of the existing Windows Mobile solution are doomed to end up in vain. The truth is, there is a widescreen-enabled model out on the WM market – the Toshiba G900 - but it is just so different from the X1, starting from positioning to design and product perception.
Naturally, you can actually draw some parallels between the XPERIA X1 and the Toshiba G900, but they won’t make much sense. All rants that “we’ve seen it already in one form or another with other WM solutions” don’t fit this particular case well, as while taking cues from HTC-branded devices, the quality of implementation offered by Sony Ericsson, multiplied by its experience and expertise have already manifested themselves, and we’ve seen only this phone’s debut thus far. What we mean by that is the X1’s modest dimensions and its design, so uncharacteristic of the WM market.
Maybe the thought I’m about to express is a little on the rebellious side, but if the stars are right, Sony Ericsson with its XPERIAX1 may be able to accomplish in a single swing what HTC has been striving to do for over a year, and what is more, with HTC’s help at that (ODM-manufacturer of the XPERIA X1) – that is, bring Windows Mobile to the masses, taking it out of a narrow niche, and erase old stereotypes that WM comes is an all-business OS for enterprise users.
The XPERIA X1 is the handset to look for – the niche demoed by Sony Ericsson with the X1 at MWC can get other manufacturers thinking a lot, as the only vendor, other than SE itself, that is trying to master it is HTC.
Being as deep down in crises as it is, i-Mate has eventually brought it self to take part in the exhibition. Nevertheless, what they have demoed at MWC doesn’t give us a lot of reasons to smile. The devices i-Mate has rolled out at MWC, that have long been available at the maker’s official page, only bring more proof of his serious problems. The Ultimate series has nothing new to it, other than copycats of solutions available with other manufacturers in one way or another.
The only solution of some interest to us is the i-Mate 9502 housed in the slide-slider form-factor – it is pretty much like top-of-the-line HTC’s solutions spec-wise, yet boasts a VGA screen. Thinking of Qualcomm’s sluggishness as far as video goes (QVGA-armed offerings from HTC don’t experience any difficulties with UI speed, though), the mix of the Qualcomm MSM7200 and VGA display is questionable; but on the other hand, a frequent issue following VGA-enabled communicators when they run out of memory has been dealt with in the 9502, as it comes bundled with 128Mb.
On balance, it is like a two-year old communicator in a new and revamped wrapping. The i-Mate Ultimate 9502 sports a no-frills design and lacks some unique touch to it, while the “Ultimate” prefix has rather been inherited from the recently buried idea of Windows Mobile powerhouses boasting no adds-ons like interface enhancements or extra functionality. We would really like to think that the company’s new range would pull it out of the crisis, but, sadly, that’s not the case. i-Mate makes no real efforts and keeps moving forwards as if by inertia, rounding out the pack, and the destination of this journey spells nothing good for the maker.
Microsoft’s booth also showcased the Mio A702 – over the next couple of months this device will be topping the tiny communicator range delivered by Mitac.
You probably have already seen the Asus P527 communicator (armed with a number pad) in our news feed. This device is set to launch shortly, taking the position of the junior GPS-enabled solution, positioned below the Asus P750. Spec-wise it is almost a twin brother to the Asus P526, which is not viewed as the finest device in the range by the brand’s fans, but it is still a well-balanced offering in terms of price/quality ratio.
The Asus P930, similar to the Nokia 9300, 9500 and E90 as far as its form-factor is concerned, packs communicator-grade functionality under its hood. After making some headlines, the P930 was treated differently by many resources – some even doubted whether it was real at all. On the other hand, it is interesting for retaining such an uncommon form-factor among Windows Mobile solutions, coming with two displays; but still, it is quite a disappointment as far as its technical specifications go.
The truth is, smartphones aren’t very popular Windows Mobile based solutions, or, to be more specific, are not popular at all. This is indirectly indicated by the fact that the HTC S730 has been refused on the Russian market, plus one of HTC’s project for Europe and some other regions got halted some time ago (a smartphone, whose counterpart in Europe is known as the T-Mobile Shadow). Nevertheless, some makers don’t give up hope just yet and crank out new devices, although for the most part they don’t differ much as far as specs go.
BENQ’s new brand that has come to replace its old trademark. Microsoft’s booth featured two smartphones bearing this name on them – a slider and a candybar. While they both retain quirky designs (for Windows Mobile devices), they aren’t much different from the competition, if at all. Given the pressure coming from the camp of the Series S60 and HTC-branded pocketable communicators, BENQ doesn’t seem to stand a chance.
The DUO sliding smartphone has something interesting on offer – it is a dual slider, but not in the way we are used to see these days, as it can open sideways and up (packing in two keypads). It is rivaled by the HTC S710 and S730, although the latter seem to a tad behind due to weaker hardware they retain.
The number of new models rolled out at MWC certainly can’t blow you away, plus with the advent of Sony Ericsson’s solution, the competition within the Windows Mobile segment should get even tougher. We will get back to HTC’s latest and greatest solutions, and, probably, E-Ten as well; also expect to see a review or two on HTC’s new offerings in the near term.
Published 14 February 2008
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