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Microsoft made a phone, and I hate it already

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Opinion Microsoft's next mobile platform will probably make for nice mobile phones, but for those of us hankering after a mobile computer it's just going to be annoying.

Windows Phone 7 Series has the right kinds of sliding bits and wobbly buttons that everyone seems to admire so much these days, and that means it will probably sell well enough to the general public. But for the last few decades, we've been watching mobile phones morph into mobile computers, and some of us don't want to go back to the days when a phone was a phone, pretty graphics or no.

Take the Samsung Omnia - a nice enough bit of kit, generally considered to have been ruined by the addition of Windows Mobile. But while the Omnia might drop into a medium-sized pocket it's also pretty powerful - stick a decent word processor on it, and a web browser, then run up the e-mail client and a Bluetooth keyboard (or, if you've got the weight, a RedFly) you've got something that will replace a laptop and can still be dropped into a pocket when you want to travel light.

The Omnia will do all that, and at the same time too, but run up a multi-protocol messaging client as well and things start to slow to a crawl. Should you then be unlucky enough to get a phone call, then all bets are off.

So you might decide to invest in an Omnia II: roughly the same platform, but with a faster processor, so it should cope better with such demands. Only it doesn't. Samsung has tried hard to beat Windows Mobile into the shape of a mobile phone, with disastrous consequences for anyone who was hoping it would function as a pocket computer.

The Omnia II considers the slick display of interface animations to be the most important thing, and struggles to maintain these at all times. So run up your web browser, then your word processor, and the Omnia II will shut down the browser before you've had a chance to check your e-mail. Connect your RedFly and the Omnia II will continue to insist on huge, finger-friendly menus, despite the fact that you've got a perfectly good mouse attached.

Unlike an iPhone, the Omnia II has the ability to multitask, but it chooses not to.

The point here isn't to slag off the Omnia II: Samsung has worked hard to try and make Windows Mobile act like a mobile phone. The problem is that I don't want a mobile phone, I want a pocket computer that happens to be able to make phone calls, and Microsoft used to be able to provide me with one.

Windows Phone 7 Series is a phone platform, and it will probably sell well to users who want phones with pretty graphics and sliding menus. If Microsoft can generate significant developer support, it could provide a credible alternative to the iPhone, but it will never be a portable computer*. And after more than two decades of waiting, is that really too much to ask? ®

* Yes, Android has potential, but it can't underline your spelling mistakes in red, it can't run the native version of Opera and it can't be connected to a RedFly - so it's not there quite yet.

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