This is the second part of the interview with Todd Warren, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Mobile Communications Product group, responsible for the development of Windows Mobile OS.
The first part covered Sony Experia announcement, Windows mobile initiatives in consumer space, mobile handset software/hardware relation issues, usability and User Inteface design in Windows Mobile.
In this, Second part, we talk about multimedia features in Windows Mobile, WM/Zune relationship, Touch interface in Windows Mobile and relations between WM and it’s partners on touch initiatives.
The third part will discuss Microsoft/Zoomobi relationship, mobile browsing and search experience in future Windows Mobile versions, integration of Live services like Mapping and Messenger, Musiwave acquisition, possible music download & streaming service and mobile gaming initiatives.
UV. What about the multimedia features? This is the next thing that the average person looks at. So, video, music playback, photo and video capture recording and editing, and the whole user generated content thing, like uploading, mobile blogging, sharing, etc. Are you going to provide this functionality in the mobile operating system, or are you going to rely on third party apps?
TW. You can expect as we evolve the Windows Mobile that the media functionality will continue to improve. Of course, there will be cases (and Sony Ericsson is a great example), where Sony Ericsson brings to the party a lot of expertise around things like the camera scenario, with the work they’ve done with their CyberShot brand, or with music, the Walkman brand.
And the advantage of working with a broad set of partners is Windows Mobile is an open enough platform, they can bring those experiences to the phone, and we can add our productivity experiences where we’re strong to augment those.
But we are also working on improving the base of media and picture experiences as part of Windows Mobile. You can expect, I would say, pretty dramatic changes to those in future versions of the product.
UV. Another popular consumer portable device is Zune. I know that you probably won’t be working on a Zune phone (or will you?). But are you using the Zune team experience, for, let’s say, the consumer version of Windows Mobile?
TW. We collaborate a lot between the Zune team and the Windows Mobile team in Microsoft. In fact, the Zune project actually evolved from a project called Portable Media Center that I was responsible for before; so, I’m very familiar, intimately familiar, with the UI metaphor that’s on the Zune device, and the way that works.
I think there were some very innovative things in terms of that user interface approach that might scale to more complex tasks, and you can expect us to take the advantage of that. I also think that in the future, we certainly expect that on mobile phones, you will be able to access some of the things that make Zune unique, like the Zune community, Zune marketplace, and those pieces of the system, so we’re collaborating with the Zune team on bringing out to users in the best possible way.
UV. Touch interface. The functionality had so far have been, let’s say, okay for business handset and stylus operation. But for the average user, again, it’s about natural finger touch, gestures etc. And there’s obviously an iPhone, Samsung has their Croix interface, then it’s LG with their Touch interface, which is also getting better; Nokia is launching S60 Touch soon… how are you addressing the touch in Windows Mobile?
TW. Well, our initial approach to touch (and of course we had stylus and some touch operations since the introduction of Target PC phone edition in 2003), so with our devices today in touch, especially for operations like dialing, we’ve really looked at how we can use resistive touch to do some of those operations.
We’ve added in (Windows Mobile) 5 some of the individual soft key work, so that you can do some of those operations.
Lately we’ve been working with the OEMs and in particular HTC, on something related to touch operation. HTC Touch has been an incredibly well received product, they sold over 2 million units of it. We’ve done some work with them in the system, so that we can accommodate some things, even beyond, for example, what you might have seen here in Europe; the Sprint touch device in the US has a different thumb-able keyboard that you can use as part of device, and we collaborated with HTC to help bring (that) to the market.
So you’ll see us continue to work with the device makers as new touch technologies come out. Same is true for the LG phones like the KS20, there are some things that are finger able in that UI.
The next set of work that we need to do is really for the common controls, let the user make the right trade-offs between the fingers and stylus; there are advantages of both pieces as part of the system; obviously if you’re in a hurry, or you’re in a car, you want to be able to use your fingers against the device, you know; if you want to have handwriting or ink or sketching as a part of the application, using a stylus makes more sense. Also with a stylus and with things like resistive touch, you can have a lot higher density of information on the screen. So, especially for business kind of applications, which is the strength of Windows today, having the ink capability as part of the system is important and you need to use some of the resistive technologies to do that.
So, I think we’ll be augmenting our touch capability, we’ll continue to keep the strengths of stylus; we are going to build on the work we had in terms of ink on the device, so we can take advantage of some of the things you have seen on the PC in the future. Not talking about specific products or stuff that’s going to appear, but we’re definitely doing a lot of work.
UV. Would HTC see you as a competition if you worked with a TouchFlo interface, their gestures, and later integrated it natively into Windows Mobile; would they be upset about that?
TW. No, I don’t think so. I mean, we have a very good relationship with HTC, we talk a lot about where we are going to extend the platform, and where the platform is, and we can work with all OEM’s and ODM’s, for whom we do changes; and I think there will be lots of opportunities for TouchFlo, as we integrate some more native things into the system.
I would say frankly, you know, HTC’s main ask to us is, today a user encounters some cliffs in experience between, say TouchFlo and the native Windows Mobile applications. They would like us to have more touch and core applications to make that experience more seamless. And that’s really the area we are collaborating now.
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