Hacking Bangkok Blog

Tech and Living in Thailand's City of Angels

The Hacking Bangkok blog covers I.T. and technology in general, and my experiences working and living in the Kingdom of Thailand. Bangkok has a very long Thai name, which starts with Krung thep - City of Angels.
Bangkok sunset from my bedroom balcony

Friday, November 21, 2008

The HTC Roadmap for WinMo, and Android Answers

I managed to attend a presentation by someone at HTC this week, and a (small) amount of light was shed on some of their future plans. I'm pretty sure that between Engadget Mobile and Gizmodo (and the dozens of gadget sites they troll for information), this information already exists at least as rumor, but here is what I learned. My last phone, and my current one, are both made my HTC, and both run versions of Windows Mobile (aka WinMO or WM).

One of the first slides of the presentation was an overall roadmap (see above) - unfortunately, the road on that map ended with 2008. Still - there was interesting info! There are three roads on the map: one for 3G phones, one for "Edge PDA" phones, and one for "Smart Phones". The last one - smart phones - only has two devices on it, and only one "new" one - the HTC S740 (code-named "Rose"), a oddish-looking mobile phone running WM6.1 Standard (e.g., non-touchscreen), and yet with a slide-out qwerty keyboard (plus a "normal" numeric keypad below the screen) and the same CPU as the Diamond. I guess some people really hate on-screen keypads.

The "Edge PDA" road has what looks like modestly updated versions of the original HTC Touch. Same OMAP 201 MHz processor, but with slightly better cameras, and running WM6.0. *yawn* These were codenamed "Opal". An un-codenamed device for Q4 of this year (that's now, for those keeping track) seemed to be the HTC P3470, another 201 MHz OMAP processor phone running TouchFLO 2D, but with quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE instead of the tri-band in the Touch/Opal series. There's also a quad-band Touch with the same specs, but with the rounded Touch form-factor, giong by "Touch Viva". I don't know about you, but I'm so over the underpowered, 2.5G, low-rez screens of the entire pre-Diamond series of "Touch" phones.

Which is a nice segue to the top-row of the "roadmap" - the 3G phones. The Touch Diamond shows up around mid-year (and since I bought mine in June, that jives with reality), followed by the Raphael (aka Touch Pro), and then the Jade. The Touch Pro is pretty much a fatter Diamond, owing to its slide-out qwerty keyboard, and includes a TV-out and a micro-SD card slot. According to Slayo.com, the Jade combines 3G, and the same processor as the Diamond series (528 MHz Qualcomm) with the 240 x 320 screen of the 2.5G Touch phones. On a later slide, it's referred to as the "HTC Touch 3G", and confusingly labled as having "four times the resolution of most phones", which is the same line used on the Touch Diamond slide. So is it really 240 x 320, or is it 320 x 640? Hmm... Anyway, the form-factor is defintely more Touch than Diamond, though by no means ugly. It comes in a few different colors, including ivory and black.

After the Jade comes the Victor - another variant on the Touch Diamond, with the corners being more rounded, and a different back. This phone was passed around the presentation, but I didn't have a chance to take a photo (they're all over the web anyway). The G1 was nowhere on the roadmap, but the final phone in the 3G row was the HTC Blackstone. As revealed by Coolsmartphone.com, this is HTC Touch HD, which goes on sale here in Thailand next week (knocks on wood) with it's gorgeous 3.8" 480 x 800 screen - enough pixels to watch video ripped from DVDs in all their 1990s-rez glory.

The presentation had some charts, courtesy of IDC (and dated 2007.... doh!) that showed sales of "converged devices" growing at double-digit rates. Since HTC is one of the biggest (and fastest-growing) makers of these mobile communication devices (which is what I'm calling them - "smartphone" doesn't really do justice to what you can do with a good one), things look pretty good for them, at least in the world of bar-chart projections. They've got the largest WinMO R&D team on the planet (not sure if that includes Microsoft or not.... looking at how delayed WM7 is, though, I wouldn't be suprised if HTC has more WinMo developers than Microsoft), and with Android, they're covering their butts just in case!

HTC doesn't just make gadgets though - they offer enterprise solutions to carriers including putting in push-mail using either the CAMEO Enterprise Server (which can connect to Exchange, Lotus/Domino, and normal IMAP/POP3 servers) or by adding BlackBerry Connect software to their phones, so crackberry-addicts can get their fix from HTC hardware. Unbeknownst to me, HTC has enterprise software for vertical markets like mobile insurance, healthcare management, sales-force automation, and "mobile monitoring" for fleet management (read: keeping tabs on where your truck-drivers are). All of these other offerings explain part of why HTC is sticking with WinMo through thick and thin (lately, thin). These other software solutions were all designed to run on WinMo - hence, more WinMo h/w from HTC.

At the end of the presentation was Q&A time. I had about 50 questions in my head, but to be polite, I just asked two. The biggest one was, "Why is the G1/Dream hardware less impressive than the Touch HD and Touch Pro, which came out around the same time?" The answer was very, very interesting. I was told that "clearly, HTC wasn't responsible for the complete design" - and that given HTC's focus on making "stylish" phones, the sheer non-beauty of the G1 should make that obvious. Whether it was T-Mobile, or Google that was influencing the G1's less-than-Prada-level of style, I don't know. I do know that the G1 has a 320 x 480 screen, which is half that of the Touch Diamond, and even less than half of the almost-identical sized Touch HD's screen. The HTC rep told me that the "next generation" of Android phone, to be released next year, will bring the hardware up to parity with their WinMo sets, and will be more stylish.

Oh - for you guys over at the XDA-Developers.com forums, HTC is definitely keeping an eye on what you guys write about. I mentioned to the HTC rep that there were people working on getting Android to boot on Diamond/Touch Pro hardware, and was rewarded with a big smile, and the reply, "Oh, you mean the XDA Developer people? Yes, they've been playing with our hardware a lot" (or words to that effect).

2009 should see some new HTC Android hardware - to HTC, Android is more of a "consumer" mobile OS, while WinMo is more of an "Enterprise" OS, but as time goes on, I suspect Android is going to get a lot of "enterprise" features too. Oh - and thanks, HTC, for the free Touch Diamond slim-case and the gift-pack of car-charger/mobile-charger/retractable-sync-cable and screen protectors - that's exactly the kind of swag I needed!!!