If you could merge the best features of Windows Mobile and the iPhone operating system, what would your hybrid OS look like? Here's one tech's vision.
Even though I have made a career out of writing about Microsoft products, I have to admit that there are some areas in which the iPhone's operating system is far superior to Windows Mobile. Having said that though, the iPhone isn't perfect either (in spite of what Apple's rabid fan base will tell you). Since both the iPhone's OS and Windows Mobile have things I like and don't like, I thought that it would be fun to write a list of the things that the two operating systems could learn from each other.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
1: File Explorer
The first time I connected an iPhone to one of my computers, I decided to try copying a few files to the iPhone to see which file formats it would support. Having grown up with Windows, I expected the iPhone to have a feature similar to File Explorer (the Windows Mobile version of Windows Explorer) that would allow me to browse the device's file system. Much to my surprise, there is no such feature included with the iPhone. While you can definitely get by without this capability, not being able to browse the file system made me feel like a fish out of water.
2: Task Manager
Windows Mobile handles running applications a little bit differently than desktop versions of Windows do. When you close an application in Windows Mobile, you aren't really terminating the application. The next time you open the application, you pick back up where you left off. The only way to really terminate an application is by using the Task Manager.
The first time I used an iPhone, it felt really strange not to have a Task Manager (or an Apple equivalent). The iPhone has a single button you can press to return to the list of available applications. Some applications terminate when you press this button, but others do not. It would be nice to have a Task Manager-like utility built in that would display a list of open applications and that would allow you to close them.
3: iTunes interface
The primary utility for copying data to and from the iPhone is iTunes. I have to tell you that I am not exactly an iTunes fan. I would much prefer it if Windows treated the iPhone as an external storage device and allowed you to drag and drop files as you can with Windows Mobile devices.
4: Safari Web Browser
One great iPhone feature is its Web browser. The Safari Web browser that comes with the iPhone is far superior to the mobile version of Internet Explorer that is included with Windows Mobile. Granted, Microsoft made some much needed improvements to Internet Explorer in Windows Mobile 6.5, but it still doesn't render Web pages as well as the iPhone browser.
5: One-touch access to everything
Another thing I like about the iPhone is that you can launch applications with a single touch. This design feature goes a long way toward making the iPhone easy to use.
6: The App Store
The biggest thing that has contributed to the iPhone's success is arguably the number of applications that are available for it. Numerous applications are available for Windows Mobile too, but there are way more iPhone applications. With Windows Mobile having been around for as long as it has, I really wish that there were more applications for it.
7: The interface
Earlier, I said that I like the iPhone's single-touch access to applications. While I do like being able to launch applications so easily, the list of applications can become really cluttered as you start to accumulate a lot of them. It would be nice to at least have the option of grouping applications into folders without the aid of third-party software.
8: The operating system itself
In addition to the features I have already named, there are some other characteristics of the operating systems that I like. I like that Windows Mobile looks and feels like Windows. On the other hand, the iPhone's graphics engine is far superior to the one used by Windows Mobile. I have a friend, for example, who routinely plays first person shooters on his iPhone.
For those who are not familiar with ActiveSync, it's a Microsoft feature designed to keep a Windows Mobile device connected to an Exchange Server mailbox. Although ActiveSync is a Microsoft feature, Apple has built its own version into the iPhone. As embarrassed as I am to say it, I have found it easier to connect an iPhone to an Exchange mailbox than to connect a Windows Mobile device.
10: The onscreen keyboard
Finally, I love the iPhone's onscreen keyboard. Although my Windows Mobile device has a touch screen, the onscreen keyboard is so small that I can't type on it without using a stylus. The iPhone's onscreen keyboard is much more practical.
Do you agree with this assessment of the relative merits of these operating systems? What other features would you like to see included in your OS of choice?
Check out 10 Things... the newsletter
Get the key facts on a wide range of technologies, techniques, strategies, and skills with the help of the concise need-to-know lists featured in TechRepublic's 10 Things newsletter, delivered every Friday. Automatically sign up today.
Brien Posey is a seven-time Microsoft MVP. He has written thousands of articles and written or contributed to dozens of books on a variety of IT subjects.