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23Apr/12Off

MS Shooting themselves in their mobile feet again?

TechOps Guy: Nate

I've started to feel sorry for Microsoft recently. Back in the 90s and early 00s I was firmly in the anti MS camp, but the past few years I have slowly moved out of that camp mainly because MS isn't the beast that it used to be. It's a company that just fumbles about at what it does now and doesn't appear to be much of a threat anymore. It has a massive amount of cash still but for some reason can't figure out how to use it. I suppose the potential is still there.

Anyways I was reading this article on slashdot just now about Skype on Windows phone 7. The most immediate complaint was the design of WP7 prevents skype from receiving calls while in the background because with few exceptions like streaming media and stuff any background app is suspended. There is no multi tasking on WP7? As some others I have seen notice - I haven't seen a WP7 phone on anyone yet, so haven't seen the platform in action. Back when what was Palm was gutted last year and the hardware divisions shut down many people were saying how WP7 was a good platform to go to from WebOS, especially the 7.5 release which was pretty new at the time.

I don't multi task too much on my phone or tablets, but it's certainly nice to have the option there. WebOS has a nice messaging interface with full skype integration so skype can run completely in the background. I don't use it in this way mainly because the company I'm at uses Skype as a sort of full on chat client, so the device would be hammered by people talking (to other people) in group chats which is really distracting. Add to that the audible notifications for messaging on WebOS applies to all protocols, so I use a very loud panic alarm for SMS messages for my on call stuff, and having that sound off every couple of seconds when a skype discussion is going is not workable! So I keep it off unless I specifically need it. 99.9% of my skype activity is work related. Otherwise I wouldn't even use the thing. Multi tasking has been one of the biggest selling points of WebOS since it was released several years ago, really seeming to be the first platform to support it (why it took even that long sort of baffles me).

So no multi tasking, and apparently no major upgrades coming either - I've come across a few articles like this one that say it is very unlikely that WP7 users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8/WP8. Though lack of mobile phone upgrades seems pretty common, Android in particular has had some investigations done to illustrate the varying degrees when or if the various handsets get upgrades. WebOS was in the same boat here, with the original phones not getting past version 1.4.5 or something, the next generation of phones not getting past 2.x, and only the Touchpad (with a mostly incompatible UI for phones apparently) having 3.x. For me, I don't see anything in WebOS 3.x that I would need on my WebOS 2.x devices, and I remember when I was on WebOS 1.x I didn't see anything in 2.x that made me really want to upgrade, the phone worked pretty well as it was. iOS seems to shine the best in this case providing longer term updates for what (has got to be) is a very mature OS at this point.

But for a company that has as much resources as Microsoft, especially given the fact that they seem to be maintaining tighter control over the hardware the phones run on, it's really unfortunate that they may not be willing/able to provide the major update to WP8.

Then there was the apparent ban Microsoft put on all players, preventing them from releasing multi core phones in order to give Nokia time to make one themselves, instead of giving even more resources to making sure they could succeed they held the other players back, which not only hurts all of their partners (minus Nokia, or not?) but of course hurt the platform as a whole.

I'm stocked up on WebOS devices to last me a while on a GSM network. So I don't have to think about what I may upgrade to in the future, I suspect my phones might outlive the network technologies they use.

To come back to the original topic - lack of multi tasking - specifically the inability for Skype to operate in the background is really sad. Perhaps the only thing worse is it took this long for Skype to show up on the platform in the first place. Even the zombie'd WebOS has had Skype for almost a year on the Touchpad, and if you happened to have a Verizon Pre2 phone at the time, Skype for that was released just over a year ago(again with full background support). I would of thought given Microsoft bought Skype about a year ago that they would of/ could of had a release for WP7 within a very short period of time(30 days?). But at least it's here for the 8 people that use the phone, even if the version is crippled by the design of the OS. Even Linux has had Skype (which I use daily) for longer. There have been some big bugs in Skype on WebOS - most of them I think related to video/audio, doesn't really impact me since most of my skype usage is for text chat.

While I'm here chatting about mobile I find it really funny, and ironic that apparently Microsoft makes more money off of Android than it does it's own platform(estimated to be five times more last year), and Google apparently makes four times more money off of iOS than it's own platform.

While there are no new plans for WebOS hardware at this point - it wouldn't surprise me at all if people inside HP were working to make the new ARM-based WP8 tablets hackable in some way to get a future version of WebOS on them, even though MS is going to do everything they can to prevent that from happening.

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