By Stephen Schenck | May 15, 2006 11:00 AM
The MEDC 2006 conference in the US is now over, the world tour is on going through the summer. I walked into the Venetian on Monday afternoon and did not walk outside until Thursday afternoon. I would say, there were about 2000 attendees and Microsoft did an excellent job of packing the 3 days from 8am to 10pm. Walking through the casino to get the conference center, I saw very few people that looked like MEDC attendees gambling. The 3 days were packed with presentations, instructor led tutorials, and hands on labs mostly targeted at developers, although all the sessions provided some insight on what Microsoft is concentrating on. Here are some closing bits on this year’s MEDC.
Windows CE 6.0 is essentially a re-write of the kernel engine providing a more secure base to use more powerful processors.
Integration of CE 6.0 with Visual Studio 2005 is extensive. Microsoft wants to provide the developer with one interface to build ROMs and applications. As the potential for more screen sizes and resolutions come about, the keynote addressed how developers could handle screen real estate and orientation easily through the WYSIWYG interface in Visual Studio, however this does mean additional design work.
Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone and Smartphone editions are the future for the platform. The standalone Pocket PC is definitely in the background.
Microsoft is trying to figure out what to do about the UMPC, they admit missing their price target but are also encouraged by the interest of enterprise organization in the form factor which was only to be targeted to consumers. They need some marketing and research help. After playing with one, I see the potential use in the enterprise, from vehicle mounted (they used the double DIN 16:9 screen size used by car manufacturers for in dash GPS systems) to wall mounted systems. It can also be used by individuals who need something smaller than a laptop but with a larger screen than a Pocket PC. From a developer perspective the device is great since it runs XP, although screen size needs to be considered in the application. Unfortunately the first generation’s price point is off by a factor of 2.
The Palm’s Treo 700w is a hit and Palm did an excellent job of marketing their differentiation (the Today screen plugin) with other PPC phones. They also touted the one handed operation, but after playing with one, I could not find a one handed function that I could not perform with my T-Mobile MDA loaded with Smartskey. To use the 700w’s keyboard for text entry I needed two hands, however being able to dial a name or number directly from the keypad without bringing up the phone application is a nice feature.
I think Motorola’s attempt at generating buzz at the conference for the Q was a flop. It was designed to provide a stylish alternative to the Blackberry, but this was not a Blackberry crowd. It is very thin but I found the width hard to handle with one hand and I have pretty good size hands. The scroll wheel is definitely a plus. The CDMA version is ready to go and should be released this summer presumably on Verizon. I think it will do well against the Blackberry and might force more IT shops to revamp their Blackberry only policies.
In the same form factor space, the HP hw6900 series is definitely thicker at .71 inches versus .45, but with different OS versions they are targeted to different users. The Q runs the WM 5.0 Smartphone edition while the hw6900 runs the WM 5.0 PPC phone edition. HP really crammed everything into this device, after the hw6500 less than stellar start. It has GPS, WIFI and Bluetooth. It should do well in the GSM PPC phone space when it is released this summer.
I recently became a Tablet PC user (Lenovo X41), I have used Office One Note previously but I hit my stride with it taking handwritten notes during sessions and meetings. The one downside to One Note is the lack of a viable counterpart for Windows Mobile. The Office team is partially coming to rescue in Office 12 with Mobile One Note. They have built what looks to be an excellent companion the desktop One Note with emphasis on capturing multimedia information such as pictures and sounds. The one down side is that they chose to synchronize via desktop rather than Exchange. This means no OTA synching. I understand why they did it, their notebook data structure requirements do not fit it in nicely with the Exchange data store, but there should have been some way to sync simple “Post It” notes that would flow into a desktop One Note notebook. On a positive note, the Office team knows it’s an issue. I will have to try it when Office 12 Beta 2 comes out.
I never knew there were so many products around our lives that use Windows CE and XP Embedded, from gas pumps, stage lighting controllers, IPTV set top boxes, slot machines, heart monitors, juke boxes, to home automation systems. There is an incredible range of products and Microsoft is becoming a force in the embedded device world. I can understand the fear some have of Microsoft dominating the world, but from an IT perspective having a single development environment is great.
Although there was no breakthrough announcements at this conference, it provided developers with a chance to understand how the embedded developer community can leverage Visual Studio 2005 with the current 5.0 and the beta 6.0 releases. There was no real news for the XP embedded crowd other than the new Point Of Service platform which seems to be a hit with NCR and IBM. My observation of the crowd of developers at the conference found the majority using the Treo 700w or the HTC Wizard (T-Mobile MDA/Cingular 8125/QTEK 9100), there were a couple of OQO’s and Jasjar’s. As I had expected there were only a handful of folks with traditional cell phones, and somewhat surprising only a couple people with Bluetooth headset. All in all, I think this was a good conference, however the Microsoft conference questionnaire did pose the question on whether this conference should only be held when a major announcement is made (a la PDC) or annually as it has been. It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does, since Teched could theoretically fill the gap for developers using the released platform.