Zach over at Symbian in Motion recently purchased a Windows Mobile device just to see what it was like. He went with the HTC Touch, personally I would have gone with the TyTN II, but to each his own. His first episode in a future series of blog posts about S60 vs WM tackles an issue that is highly debated: the home screen. One of the first things people will bring up is who owns that screen? By that I mean if you purchase a device from an operator versus a device straight from a manufacturer who decides what you can and can not see every time you take your device out of your pocket?
All S60 powered devices look similar except for their background and icons depending on which series. Windows Mobile on the other hand offers developers a full blown SDK that allows them to create applications that live on what is arguably the most important piece of real estate on your phone. It used to be that you took your device out of your pocket to check the time and date, missed calls and text messages. Then as screens became larger and larger you could customize which application shortcuts you want as well as view your upcoming calender events and todo’s. This is where the evolution of S60 stopped and where the power of third party developers enabled Windows Mobile to be just that little bit smarter.
Now this might look cluttered to you, but from one screen you have your 5 day forcast, one touch on/off for your WiFi and Bluetooth radios, free memory, frequency and a whole bunch of other things that you may call absolutely useless. You are right, they are absolutely useless to you, but they might be meaningful for someone else. That someone else could, if he wanted to, create an application to go on his today screen that shows him the information he needs, put it up a website and sell it thereby increasing the Windows Mobile development community. If you’re a stock trader and you need to know how your portfolio is doing quickly and effectively than you can hire a developer to create such an application for you to appear on the screen you see every time you take your device out of your pocket. The development tools and programming language for Windows Mobile is superior to that of S60 when it comes to rapid development of applications that do exactly what you need them to do and nothing more. Better yet, you can build applications that appear on your today screen.
Sure, S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 2 will allow you to create “widgets” which are applications written in the scripting languages that power the web, but you will still be limited to choosing which 5 shortcuts you can have on your S60 active screen. Yes S60 3.2 will get a new and customizable active screen, but there are no plans (that I am aware of) to create an SDK for developers to expand that screen in the same fashion as Windows Mobile.
Would S60 become even more popular for operators if given the ability to put more branded content on the active screen? I would say yes.
Would S60 become more popular for developers and users as well if they had the capability to go beyond theming and change their active screen to suit their needs? Again, yes.
I sent out an email to HTC Europe about a week ago trying to see if I could score a TyTN II. Still haven’t heard anything back, but I’m crossing my fingers.