Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shout Hallelujah, Come On, Get Appy

Time Magazine's Techland writer, Peter Ha has a good write up of Microsoft's recently announced Windows Phone 7 series mobile operating system, due out at the end of the year (2010). While I don't agree with everything Mr. Ha writes (Doesn't Motorola's MotoBlur do the same social media aggregation trick as Windows Phone 7?), he does a good job of summing up why this now mobile operating system is so important to Microsoft.
"When you think about Microsoft, a lot of adjectives come to mind, but hip and cool are probably not among them. Many consumers associate Microsoft only with the Windows machine they're using. And all those "I'm a Mac. I'm a PC" ads have made Apple users like me feel kind of sorry for PCs.

But it's a brand-new decade, and Microsoft is about to leapfrog Apple — and every other player in the cell-phone world — with the launch of Windows Phone 7 (WP7).

But the most underappreciated product in Microsoft's vast portfolio, the Zune digital media player, is about to roll all these products into one handy little phone that catapults Microsoft ahead of Apple, Google, Palm and BlackBerry's maker, RIM."

You can read Mr. Ha's full article on the Time website.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

HTC Touch Pro 2

The company I work for is continuing it's search to find the perfect smartphone to replace our existing Treo 700p and 755p fleet of phones. This past Friday, I found a new phone to take out for a test drive: the Verizon Wireless edition HTC Touch Pro 2!

The Touch Pro 2 is a Windows Mobile 6.1 powered phone that has one of the largest screens I've ever seen on a Windows Mobile phone. (The last two Windows Mobile phones I've used where the Palm Treo 750 and Palm Treo Pro.)

There are two things that you will immediately noticed as different with the Touch Pro 2 than other Windows Mobile phones. The first is the Touch Pro 2 is has a slider that reveals a roomy landscape keyboard that will make people who complain about cramped keyboards happy. The screen also tilts up toward the user. The second thing that you will notice as being different in this Windows Mobile phone is the the special sauce that HTC has added; TouchFlo. TouchFlo is HTC's customized user interface (UI) that added the much needed "cool factor" to Microsoft's mobile operating system.

To learn more about the HTC Touch Pro 2, visit the HTC website.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Windows 7 and Windows Mobile Device Center

You have read the hype about Microsoft's newest desktop operating system, Windows 7. You are getting ready to purchase or install the upgrade on your PC. But what about support for your Windows Mobile smartphone or PDA?

Microsoft has you covered. As with Windows Vista, Windows 7 users will need to download and install Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1 (WMDC). WMDC is a free download from the Microsoft website.

On the WMDC download page, Microsoft has some notes that you will want to be aware of before you get started.
  • You can use Windows Mobile Device Center 6.1 only with phones running Windows Mobile 2003 or later.

  • ActiveSync and Windows Mobile Device Center won’t work with Windows Embedded CE 4.2 or 5.0, Pocket PC 2002, or Smartphone 2002 devices.

  • To sync content to any of these devices, you must use a USB or serial cable and your computer’s Internet connection and File Explorer.

  • You must use Microsoft Outlook 2002, Outlook 2003, or Office Outlook 2007 to sync your e-mail, contacts, tasks, and notes from your computer.

  • You must use a USB cable to connect your phone to your computer the first time you use Windows Mobile Device Center to sync.
I've also seen some people mention on Microsoft Windows forums that if you have a partnership between your Windows Mobile phone and your Windows XP or Vista system that you should break the partnership before upgrading to Windows 7. Once the installation or upgrade has been completed, then install WMDC 6.1 and then pair up your phone to your PC.

To learn more about the Windows Mobile Device Center, visit the Microsoft website.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Retail Editions of Windows 7 Go On Sale Today

While the final version of Windows 7 has been available to select Microsoft customers and TechNet subscribers for some time now, October 22, 2009 will be remembered as the day that Windows Vista was finally replaced.

Starting today, Microsoft has started selling four of the six editions of Windows 7 online and at retail locations. (Windows 7 Starter edition and Windows 7 Enterprise edition are required to be purchased under special conditions that we wouldn't normally have access to. Think netbooks and large corporate account holders.)

So what does that mean for smartphone users? Probably not much. Microsoft has worked hard to ensure that any software package that works on Windows Vista will also work on Windows 7. I've been using Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise editions for the last few months now and I haven't run into any serious show stoppers.

Palm Pre, Pixi - Palm webOS devices

Palm Pre customers (and Palm Pixi customers shortly) won't have any sync problems out of the box because Palm webOS, unlike Palm OS, does not sync directly with a desktop computer. People using webOS phones and third-party sync solutions like Chapura PocketMirror for webOS and Chapura Echo will want to check for any updates that may be made available. At the time of this posting, I did not see any updates mentioned on Chapura's website.

Treo 755p, Centro, Palm OS Handhelds - Palm OS 5 Devices

Customers using Palm's older generation smartphones and PDA handhelds, including the Palm Treo 755p, Centro, and Palm TX handheld PDA, things can get a little bit sketchy. Most of the issues with Palm Desktop versions 4.x and 6.x will likely continue. You will still need to be a member of the Windows Administrators group to install the software and all manors of HotSync voodoo will likely be needed to perform successful HotSync operations. In my limited Palm Desktop 6.22 testing on my Windows 7 Ultimate machine, which was upgraded from Windows Vista Ultimate, I have been able to HotSync my Treo 755p. However, I will caution you that 3-5 HotSync operations is hardly conclusive.

Windows 7 also won't correct the USB driver issue. Neither Palm nor ACCESS (the company that owns the Palm OS 5 and Windows Palm Desktop source code) has released a 64-bit USB driver. In short, that means if you have a 64-bit edition of Windows XP/Vista/7, you can't sync your Palm OS 5 device with USB cable. You will need to turn to a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth solution to sync. I don't expect either company to release a 64-bit compatible Palm OS 5 driver at this late stage in the Palm OS life cycle since Palm OS 5 is no longer being used in new devices from Palm.

RIM BlackBerry Smartphones

I recently installed BlackBerry Device Manager 5.0 on my Windows 7 machine and was able to sync it with my BlackBerry Curve 8330. After installing Device Manager, I learned that there was an OS update for my Berry and I was able to apply the update without issue. The BlackBerry USB mass storage mode also worked without a hitch.

Windows Mobile 5, 6, 6.5

There really isn't much to report here. Microsoft's latest desktop software is expected to sync with their mobile operating systems. While I haven't tried to sync my Treo 750 (Windows Mobile Professional 6.0) with my Windows 7 machine yet, it did sync (mostly) error free with Windows Vista.

What about everything else?

While I don't have an Apple iPhone or Google Android phone, I am not anticipating any serious problems. The iPhones and the iPod touch sync with Apple's iTunes software, which is still listed as being compatible with Windows XP and Windows Vista should work fine under Windows 7. If an issue does come up, I'd expect Apple to have a fix out shortly since there are so many people walking around with both devices at this point.

You can learn more about the various Windows 7 editions on the Microsoft website.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

SplashNotes for iPhone/iPod touch Review

SplashData SplashNotes is an outlining tool that helps you capture your ideas and transform them into bite size actionable tasks that, when put all together, produces a completed project or product. The SplashNotes manual describes this process as having four discrete phases: brainstorming, organizing, analyzing, and finishing. If you don't know what that means, don't worry. The SplashNotes user guide gives you good examples for all of the phases of idea and task organization.

When you launch the application, you start by using one of the predefined outlines or by creating one of your own. Think of an outline as the thing that will hold all of your tasks in a neat little container. I find it much easier if I create some general outlines and then start grouping ideas and tasks into the outline that best describes what it is I'm trying to capture. Since I use my iPod touch at home as well as work, I have outlines called Home and Work. For larger work projects, I create a new, separate outline just for that project.

Once you have a few outlines going, it is easy to move them around simply by tapping the Edit button that lives in the top left of the screen. When you tap the Edit button you get the familiar controls for deleting and moving list items. If you tap on an outline while in Edit mode, the Outline Info page appears. Here you can change the settings specific to that particular outline. For example, you can chose to have your items show up as a simple bullet list or a bullet lists with check boxes. There are two views when you have the check box view turned on. You can choose to have checked off items remain in your list (a good positive motivator) or choose to have finished items cleared from the list, allowing you to focus on the remaining items that you need to focus on. The Outline Info page is also where you can select from a number of preinstalled icons that will appear to in the main outline list view. The icon selection is large and the icons themselves are well drawn, meaning that there should be an icon that fits your needs and makes that application easy to look at while you work.

I found the controls for managing the tasks in my outlines to be easy to use and intuitive. When you are ready to add a new list item, simply tap the plus icon at the top of the screen and start typing. To create a new list item after you have started typing, just press the return key on the on-screen keyboard and keep typing. There are also on-screen controls for moving the current line item up and down the list as well as in and out denting. When you indent a task, the item above it becomes the parent and a list expand/collapse triangle appears to the left of the parent. There are also control buttons for deleting the current task and closing the on screen keyboard when you are done typing.

SplashData has built-in a nice quick start guide into their application. For new users, I strongly suggest reading the full user guide on your desktop computer. The full documentation delves into how to get the most from the software. If you are already familiar with outline tools, then the on-device quick start guide gives you all the important details for using SplashNotes right away. I have also found the quick start guide to be an efficient way to review the features of the software when I'm using SplashNotes on my iPod touch.

If you want even more control over your outlines, SplashData has two other tools for you. Mac OS X and Windows users can purchase the optional SplashNotes iPhone Desktop software. With iPhone Desktop, you can sync your iPhone or iPod touch with your Mac or Windows PC over Wi-Fi if both devices are on the same local area network (LAN). Once you have installed the software on your computer, syncing data is easy. Just open iPhone Desktop as the foreground application and then tap the Sync button on your iPhone/iPod touch. The data from your device will instantaneously synchronize between the two devices. I like the Wi-Fi sync feature because my iPod and MacBook where quick to sync the data and I wasn't required to carry an iPod sync cable with me everywhere I went.

Affectionatos of David Allen's Getting Things Done will be happy to learn that SplashNotes comes bundled with a pre-configured GTD outline. I have used Allen's processing workflow diagram for a few years and SplashNotes was very easy tool to integrate into my process for capturing and managing my "stuff."

The one thing that I didn't line about SplashNotes really had nothing to do with the program at all. I really prefer a physical keyboard over the iPhone's virtual keyboard. I dislike the on screen keyboard so much that I go out of my way to avoid using it. I would have been more open to doing more data entry on my iPod if I could use SplashNotes in landscape mode rather than portrait mode. Hopefully, Apple is suppose to be building in better support for portrait and landscape modes for more applications in their iPhone OS 3.0 software update, which is due out later this year.

I would have also liked it if there was a way to purchase a SplashNotes application bundle which includes the iPhone/iPod touch application along with my choice of SplashNotes iPhone Desktop for Mac OS X or Windows. Again, this seems to be a limitation of Apple's App Store software resulting in the need for two purchases: once for the iPhone/iPod software and then another for the desktop application from the SplashData website.

All in all, I found SplashNotes to be an intuitive tool that I was able to quickly adopt into my daily workflow. During my second week of evaluating the software, SplashNotes really allowed me to keep track of tasks during a very busy week of project deadlines, follow up action items from my various meetings, and making sure I made all of the week's softball practice pickups and drop offs. SplashNotes is an essential tool for anyone who wants to be in complete control of all their ideas and action items.

SplashNotes for the iPhone and iPod touch is available now for $4.99 from the Apple iTunes App Store. The optional SplashNotes iPhone Desktop, which also works with the first and second generation iPod touch, can be purchased from SplashData's online web store for $9.95.

For more information about SplashNotes Outliner, visit the SplashData website.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

SplashPhoto, SplashNotes Released for iPhone, iPod touch

SplashData, Inc, a leading provider of productivity software for smartphones, today announced its SplashPhoto and SplashNotes applications are available on the Apple App Store. SplashPhoto is a mobile photo album manager and SplashNotes is a note-taking and outlining application. Both work on iPod touch and iPhone and both offer wireless synchronization with Windows and Mac OS X desktop applications that are available separately.

"The innovative features of iPhone and iPod touch, like the Multi-Touch user interface and amazing display, have allowed us to create really practical apps that will be helpful to a wide range of users," said Morgan Slain, SplashData’s CEO. “We think SplashPhoto and SplashNotes are going to enable great communication and collaboration and we look forward to continuing to create mobile apps that make a difference."

SplashPhoto offers iPhone and iPod touch users a fast, easy-to-use photo organizer with two-way sync to a free PC or Mac OS X desktop version. This unique desktop application enables users to organize image collections into personalized categories and, upon synchronization, the images are arranged accordingly on the iPhone or iPod touch. There is no limit to the number of categories that users can create. SplashPhoto will also upload to, and download from, Flickr and Picasa collections, and photos taken with the iPhone are automatically geo-tagged so they can be mapped on Flickr and Picasa.

SplashNotes is a powerful notetaking and outlining application that syncs directly with companion Mac or Windows software which enables users to enter their outlines on a desktop computer and then synchronize the notes with the iPhone or iPod touch to take with them wherever they go. SplashNotes gives users the ability to create outlines of any size and complexity, attach notes and photos for quick recall, and display lists with checkboxes to turn outlines into task lists.

SplashPhoto and SplashNotes are available for $4.99 each from Apple’s App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.itunes.com/appstore.

The desktop version of SplashNotes is available at SplashData.com for $9.95. The free SplashPhoto Desktop software is also available at splashdata.com.


I have been using SplashNotes on my iPod touch and syncing it with my MacBook for about two weeks now and I've really come to enjoy using the software on my iPod, Mac OS X, and Windows notebooks. People who are looking for a good task management tool are going to get a lot of value out of SplashNotes.

Look for my review of SplashNotes over the next few days.

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