Bang On: I love Windows Mobile

It's still pretty cool to hate Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. With the iPhone and Android getting so much attention and feeling so new, the aging mobile OS from Redmond can tend to feel dated and unintuitive. Sometimes it's enough to make you question what you did so wrong to be deserving of such frustration. Here's the catch, though: I love Windows Mobile.

Windows Mobile is just like most other software products that Microsoft produces. The out of box experience is anything less than extraordinary. If the iPhone "just works", then a standard Windows Mobile installation just makes you want to put your head through a wall. Maybe it's not that horrible, but its close enough to make anyone realize, pretty quickly, that work is needed. If you put in that work to tweak the experience, though, what you'll get is what I love: A mobile phone that works with me instead of forcing me to change my ways.

One of the most critiqued areas of Windows Mobile is the user interface. It usually requires too many clicks. Even worse, for touch screen devices, most of the OS isn't very finger friendly, requiring either a stylus to reach those tiny touch points or a knife to stab yourself in the chest and end your misery. The great thing about Windows Mobile's interface, though, is that it's not like the iPhone's or Android's. They have one unified interface and while that may be applauded by some, you're out of luck if you don't actually like that interface.

With Windows Mobile, you have the ability to choose an interface that suits your needs. One of the largest manufacturers of Windows Mobile devices, HTC, implants its own highly praised TouchFlo 3D interface on most of its products. It's a hundred times more finger friendly and lets you do a lot more, at the home screen level, than most other interfaces allow. If you don't own an HTC device, you have options like SPB Mobile Shell or PointUI's Home 2. Both interface replacements let you tweak and bend Windows Mobile around you until it fits like a glove. Try that on your iPhone.

If the interface of Windows Mobile is "critiqued", then Pocket Internet Explorer is usually greeted by an angry mob complete with torches and pitchforks. It's an outright terrible browser that does more to help competing operating systems than it does Windows Mobile. Thank goodness Microsoft lets you install whatever browser you want. Seriously, if you've never used Pocket Internet Explorer, thank goodness.

If you have a Windows Mobile device, you can install any one of a plethora of highly functional browsers including Opera Mobile, Opera Mini, Skyfire, Netfront, and Iris. Mozilla is also working on a browser that should be out for more WM devices in the near future. What about on those other operating systems? Well, besides for Opera Mini also being available on Blackberries, you're pretty much stuck with what you get. Sure, the iPhone and Android have good browsers, but can they do full on flash like Skyfire can? Can the Blackberry give you an "iPhone like" web experience without resorting to a Java application? Sure, Windows Mobile has such great third party browsing options because the first party option reaches new levels of terrible, but the end result is freedom of choice and, for me, that's a beautiful thing.

It's not all roses and puppies and rainbows in the world of Windows Mobile. In fact, the world of greys and unimpressive default experiences really wind up making Windows Mobile so amazing. It doesn't have to be the way Microsoft says it has to be. You can do with Windows Mobile whatever you want. You don't need to jail break your device or burn a sacrificial lamb to get an experience that meets your expectations. All you have to do is turn to those third party developers who are there to pick up where Microsoft so obviously left off. There's no "our way or the high way" attitude here. Rather, Windows Mobile takes a cue from Burger King and lets you "have it your way". I like things my way and, for that, I love Windows Mobile.

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