Software is important right? I mean, without software, even the best hardware platform in the world doesn’t stand a chance which means that x86 is going to get left behind unless this trend changes soon. Everywhere I look I’m reading about mobile Internet and location-aware searches and geo-aware social networking and widgets and tailored applications and small footprint operating systems and friendly user interfaces. I’m hearing how the mobile device will bring the next billion people online and how its worth 6bn dollars. Its great…but its all related to smartphones.
The only reason I write this is that I’m looking for a GPS-aware search and mapping program for my handheld PC and I’d like it to be as thin and network-aware as possible to fit with my browser-based Internet life. I’m not talking about a navigation package like PC Navigator because that’s yesterdays Gigabyte-sized client-side technology. Old databases of information coupled with a limited and static POI database is no good for me. I need to be able to find a new pub by its current name and not by its old one. I need to find out the menu in a restaurant and not just its phone number. I need to be able to find out if people recommend a hotel and not just how many stars it has. I need to find out what’s playing in a Cinema and not just its address and yet the only apps that do this are being built for smartphones. OK, there are some mash-ups, Google Earth and Streets and Trips available but try using them on a ultra mobile PC with limited resources and try using them in Europe. London, England has zero points of interest in Windows Live Search!
Of course its obvious why this the case. There are a mere 10’s of thousands of UMPCs being carried around and arguably, none of them are pocketable. There are probably millions of GPS-enable smartphone’s out there now so of course software developers want to focus on that first but its getting to the point where Microsoft Windows, and not just Vista, is looking like a dead-end choice for any sort of consumer mobile device. XP could have been quite a nice core for a mobile device but with very little effort going into overlay software or mobile applications its doomed.
Geo-aware applications aren’t the only important elements of software in a mobile device I know but its becoming a very important one and i’m sick of having to trawl through endless useless bits of 3rd and 4th party mashup software. Streets and Trips 2007/2008 is the closest I’ve got to the functionality but its a desktop application, not optimised for small screens and the local search feature doesn’t seem to extend into mainland Europe yet. (Helloooo Microsoft. We’re here! All 0.5 Billion of us!)
Unless Microsoft takes the opportunity to roll-up a huge number of advanced features into an XP-based version of Origami Experience then I’m finished with Microsoft on my handheld PC. My working and social Internet life is 90% browser-based now so, for mobile activities, i’m ready to make the jump to Android or Moblin as soon as I can.