This Week in Mobile Tech Manor #76: Platform Agnostic

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The end of another week is drawing to a close which means I get to share the past week with you. My home office, Mobile Tech Manor, was so busy that I didn’t have time to prepare for this column. It was one of those weeks where late Thursday evening I realized the week was almost over. Those are rare and frankly wonderful weeks, as it’s great to find the work week has flown by in a blur. Monday was a holiday in the U.S., and it was also the first day of the Mobile World Congress. I ended up working quite a bit as a result, as big announcements were flying fast and furious at the MWC.

MWC

The MWC is one of the biggest global exhibitions that is centered around the smartphone segment. It is held in Barcelona, which this year was colder than usual. There was a lot of buzz about the cold on Twitter from those in attendance.

One of the most anticipated announcements at MWC was the unveiling of Windows Phone 7 by Microsoft. This announcement has kicked off seemingly endless discussions about the new interface, the widgety home screen, etc. I like the new interface, I find it clean and simple, yet modern. I think it goes a long way to bring Windows Phone 7 into the smartphone world of today. While I’ve heard complaints about the plain tiles that comprise this screen, I find them refreshing. I also believe that had Microsoft made them more sophisticated (3D, e. g.), then the performance of the graphics would likely take a hit. There are a lot of them on one screen after all, so keeping them simple is better for graphic performance.

I do have one concern that I haven’t seen covered anywhere. These tiles are “live” in that they are constantly updating information from both the phone and from the web. There are social network tiles, contact info tiles, well you get the idea. These tiles may end up tapping a 3G network pretty hard, with so many conduits into the web working all the time. I wonder how that will affect data network data caps, always a concern. I also wonder how this will end up affecting battery life on Windows phones.

I have seen battery life take a big hit with simple widgets on various phones. Twitter widgets running in the background can drink a battery on some phones in short order. This makes me wonder about having all of these tiles open and running at the same time on Windows Phone 7.

We’ll find out more about this over the next few months, as Microsoft didn’t unveil much detail about the new platform this week. They have a lot of time to fill before any new phones appear at the end of the year so they will no doubt be trickling out more information during the interim.

HTC must have the biggest phone design team in the business, as they produce more phone models than anybody. They unveiled three new phones at the MWC, and all of them look really sweet. The Desire is the new object of my desire, as it brings all of the goodness of the Nexus One (which they also make), and updates it with some new touches that I like. The optical touchpad beneath the screen is wonderful, and putting the brand new version of the Sense interface is awesome. I hope the Desire makes it to the U.S. this year, I’d love to give it a try.

Platform agnostic

This week I noticed that I have become truly platform agnostic, in both computing and smartphones. I have always tried to be agnostic for objectivity, but I realized this week that I have reached the point where I rarely think about the platform in hand. This realization shocked me, as normally you think the platform you use is so important that whether to use it for a given task must be a consideration. I gave a lot of thought this week to the way I am working and realize I rarely think about platform any more.

I am using Windows and OS X about 50-50 these days. When I am heading out the door to work remotely, I usually grab a notebook based on convenience of use, and never the platform. I honestly don’t care if it’s Windows or the Mac, I just grab a notebook and go. This is madly liberating, as it means the tools are comparable for the work I do. This is no doubt largely due to the cloud nature of my work, the tool is simply a conduit into the cloud. The software tools I use locally are to the point that they are equal on both platforms, and not a consideration for any given task. Madly liberating, I say again.

The same holds true for smartphone platforms. Those familiar with my mad obsession with smartphones know that I have four smartphones I have purchased and use. These are on four different phone carriers, and on four different platforms. I have webOS, BlackBerry, iPhone and Android in use. These are on Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, respectively. I have threatened to cancel some of these carriers due to the high cost, and in fact did cancel T-Mobile a while back. I have to confess that T-Mobile talked me into keeping the service so I’m still a customer.

Thinking this week on my platform independence, it became apparent that which platform I use is irrelevant for the task at hand. I just grab one of the phones when I head out, and don’t worry about the choice. They all work fine, and I have yet to regret bringing one phone and not another. This is due to the comparable capabilities of all four platforms, as the apps I use put them on equal footing with a couple of exceptions.

I still find Sprint Navigation on webOS to be the best in class, so when I am heading out to someplace I haven’t been before I always grab the Palm Pre. I love the navigation solution, it’s the best I have used on any device. I also like how easy it is to add new destinations over the web. I visit the Sprint navigation web site, add the new address, and I’m good to go. When I fire up Sprint Navigation on the Pre in the car, I hit the Sync button and all new addresses added at the desktop appear in the list. I tap the desired one and off I go. It just works.

I read a lot of e-books when I have free time, and until this week this often meant I had to take the iPhone 3G with me. Kindle on the iPhone is a great reader, and it meant the iPhone came along almost always. This week Amazon released Kindle for BlackBerry, and I immediately installed it OTA on the Storm. What a great reader the Storm is, with the large screen and the new Kindle app. I can turn pages in the book by either clicking on the page or by swiping it. I have been carrying the Storm all the time since this app landed, so Kevin’s contention that people choose smartphones based on apps is a valid one in my case.

Personal

I have been a Type 2 diabetic for almost a decade, and have been treating it with a combination of oral medication and insulin injections. I have been able to keep it under proper control until recently, but my metabolism has changed and it is not responding as well to the meds as it should. Next week I am having a continuous glucose meter installed in my body that will monitor the level every 5 minutes. This will enable my doctor to get an idea how my system is changing, and thus how to treat it properly.

I only have to have this meter in my body for four days, so it’s not a permanent change. It’s mobile tech enabled which I find fascinating given my obsessions with mobile tech. My glucose meter, used with the old finger stick method, can interface with this continual meter and store the results. I’m not yet sure how this all works together, but I’ll know more next week. It’s awesome when medical tech crosses into the mobile tech arena.

e-Book of the week

I finished the great fantasy series by James Clemens I have been discussing for a few weeks, and this week returned to the Nic Costa series by David Hewson. I am in book four of this series, The Lizard’s Bite, and it’s moving along nicely. It’s a joy swapping between the Kindle 2 and the BlackBerry Storm reading this book.

Wrap-up

That’s the week as it went down, and there was a lot of pondering on the tech I use as you now know. Until next week, take care of yourself, and be safe.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

The App Developer’s Guide to Choosing a Mobile Platform

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