Microsoft talks mobility at conference

At its Mobility Developer Conference held in Toronto on Thursday, Microsoft Corp. demonstrated key areas of its new wireless offerings while discussing the past, present and future of the mobile industry to an audience of developers.

The Pocket PC 2003 and the Microsoft Smartphone were the highlights at the conference held at the Toronto Convention Centre, while Microsoft’s Mike Wehrs, director of technology and standards for the mobile device division, called the mobile industry “a new computing environment that is basically taking over,” during his keynote address. [Please see Microsoft refreshes Pocket PC software.]

Wehrs said that a few years ago the mobile industry was solely a voice-oriented arena, but today, all that has changed. He said that users now have speech, keypad, and touch screen capabilities all on one mobile device.

He added that with the new security systems associated with data connectivity, customers have new expectations from smarter devices that are now available, and demand more out of them.

“When developers can add more and more value to [mobile devices] then what I expect, what my user experience is going to be is dramatically better and different than just being able to place a voice call,” Wehrs said.

When describing today’s mobile industry, Wehrs said “we have the good and we have the things that we didn’t do quite as well as we would have liked.”

Cameras and storage were highlighted in the “good” area as being technologies that have changed dramatically over the past year, while Wi-Fi deployment, Web services and mobile data services rounded out the unsatisfactory category.

“I think 1992 was the first year people declared as the year of mobile data. I think all of us reflect back on that and say well, we missed it by a decade and we’re not quite there yet, but it is definitely happening,” Wehrs said.

He added that the concerns that exist in areas like data services and the service side of Wi-Fi deployment, including roaming and security, are hampering device adoption and some of the overall land deployments.

Wehrs said the segregation that exists between enterprises, including public hot spots, and the rest of the world needs to be eliminated in order for mobile technology to be truly useful and evolved.

“We as people don’t sit in either one world or another, we move. We don’t only move between these wireless networks, but we move between fixed networks,” Wehrs said. “There’s a common phrase used within the mobile industry: the ‘mobile user.’ I don’t know what a mobile user is but I know what a user is. Sometimes it’s mobile and sometimes it’s fixed and sometimes it’s in hot spots. But I know as a user in that kind of scenario, I just want my stuff to work.”

Wehrs said that of all the challenge areas Microsoft is trying to address right now, the ability to move from one network type to another network type – the concept of multi-network capability or “automatic handoff capability” – is at the top of the company’s list.

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