Mobius 2001 Trip Report

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What do you get when you gather 55 rabid tech news reporters, webmasters, geeks,
reviewers and general "all around mobile technology freaks" together at one
location to learn about the latest version of Pocket PC Software?  You get
a PARTY! But the real name of this Microsoft hosted gathering was Möbius

Some of you may recall last year’s Microsoft event
that I attended: Pocket PC Wireless and
. This year, Microsoft invited back some of these same people, along
with a large group of new people, to show us all about their Pocket PC 2002
update. We were also given information on Microsoft’s Smart Phone (formerly known as Stinger)
and their overall vision for future mobile devices and software.

This year,
not only was I fortunate enough to be invited, but Judie was invited as
well! Needless to
say, Judie and I were very excited about this event and counted down the days
till it arrived. 


Julie: My flight from Indianapolis to Denver was uneventful and
arrived on time. As I was about to board my connecting flight to Seattle, I
glanced up to see Jeff Kirvin ( It ended up
that we were in the same row of seats on the plane. So, we talked about what we
thought might be in store for us this year (Jeff had been part of last year’s
group as I also had been). During the flight, Jeff told me that he had gone home
last year and had switched from his Palm PDA to the iPAQ as his primary PDA. He
eventually migrated back to the Palm due to one main reason: As a writer, he
uses his PDA as his primary device to write on. He found that Wordsmith for the
Palm was a much better word processor than Pocket Word. He showed me that his
latest PDA was the new Sony Clie

After we arrived at the Seattle Tacoma airport, we went to
find our Möbius contact to take us to the hotel. I expected to see Judie waiting
there as her flight arrived before mine. When we found our contact, we also
found Chris Coulter, Tim Warner ( Ralph Cottenham ( and his wife. But no Judie! The
Möbius person told us that she had paged her, but she hadn’t shown up yet. Well
I started worrying and called her cell phone and the hotel but she was no where
to be found. After waiting around for 15-20mins, we went ahead and loaded into
the shuttle to go to the hotel. Luckily we survived the ride to the hotel. Our
driver was, how should I say this… a MANIAC!!!! 

Judie: Yeah, I was totally hung up in San
Angelo. I was supposed to be on the 6:50am flight to Houston, but the twin
propeller plane I was on suffered a mechanical failure! As the delay got more
and more outrageous, they finally cancelled the flight. The next Continental
flight was at almost 2pm, so they put me on an American flight leaving at almost
noon. I did call our coordinator and let her know how late I was going to be…I
had visions of being stuck at the Seattle Airport and having to catch a cab. I
should have known that I wouldn’t be left "high and dry" like that.

While waiting for my flight in Dallas,  Dan
Hanttula (
Sempter Aptus)
walked up to me and introduced himself. I was relieved when I realized
that I wasn’t going to be the last to arrive. Shortly, we boarded the plane and
the trip proceeded without further incident.

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Julie: After we got to
the hotel, I went up to my room to unpack. I must say, that the hotel: The Bellevue Club was one of the nicest
places that I have ever stayed! And the bathroom! WOW! Granite sink tops, glass
standing shower and a separate garden tub. VERY NICE! 

unloading, I checked my RIM Blackberry 950

and found an email from Judie saying that her flight had been cancelled due to a
mechanical failure. She was taking another flight and wouldn’t be to the hotel
till 7pm or so. 

Judie: While Dan and I were waiting at the
Seattle Airport’s baggage claim, we were soon joined by Jim McCarthy ( formerly It
didn’t take long before we were discussing favorite games on our Pocket PCs, and
I took a bit of a ribbing for my obvious enthusiasm for FADE.
What can I say? I really enjoy the game! :0) 

It wasn’t long before we were joined by several more
attendees, and we were loaded up and on our way to the Bellville Club.

Before leaving for the trip, Hal Schechner ( had sent
out email notices to those of us that he knew where attending to meet at the
hotel bar before the official meet and greet reception. So, as soon as I had
unpacked, I headed down to the bar and found Jeff Kirvin. We sat at the bar
drinking (Coke for me…), eating pistachio nuts and talking about comics, TV
shows and other geeky topics. 

Tim Warner showed up a little bit later and we
moved our ‘party’ out to the open lounge area. I showed off my new super sexy
Canon S110 digital camera, Jeff beamed me the new color Vexed game to my Visor
Prism and we just had a good time laughing and talking. I think we were having too
much fun because an older lady at the next table came over and asked us in a
way to be quiet. I think we were interrupting her card game!

5pm, we moved to the official reception/meeting room where everyone was supposed
to meet and greet. Although all 55 people didn’t show up to this pre-event, I
was happy to see some familiar faces including: Eric Levine (, Richard Kettner
(, Hal Schechner (PalmStation), Wes Salmon
(, Joel Evans ( and Nathan Miller ( I was also very glad to meet some new people that I had talked
to via email or had visited their sites but had never met. Craig Froehle (, James Hromdaka
(, and Bill Boonn (  and Jorgen Sundgot
( InfoSync), just to name a

Finally, Judie arrived around 7pm or so. 

Judie: Since I needed to drop off my luggage
anyway, I figured I would also take a moment and check out the room. Whoa!!
Needless to say, if you are ever in the Seattle area, I highly recommend the
Belleview Club!

Shortly thereafter, I was ready to go to the "Meet
& Greet".

Julie: Once Judie joined us,  she introduced Dan
Hanttula to us all. Dan is a
crazy guy! I mean that in a good way! :o)

Left to right: Dan Hanttula, Tim Warner, Judie, me

Judie was starved so we went to the bar,
to have some calamari and talk. Other people started coming into the bar also, so another party got
started. Around 10:00pm (midnight our time), Judie and I decided to turn in to our
respective rooms since we had to be down in the lobby to meet the Microsoft bus at 7:30am the next morning.
I’m sure
you’ve heard that Microsoft is a laid back company, but boy, they sure start the
day early!


Julie: Bright and early the next morning, we were all down in the
lobby ready to board the bus to start our Möbius experience. Even more people
had showed up that I recognized: Dale Coffing (Pocket PC Passion), Jennifer Shelamer
(, and Jason Dunn (

Judie: This was my first time to meet Dale
Coffing in person, although we had corresponded with each other before. I have
to mention how impressed I was with what a genuine, and nice guy he

Julie: Upon arrival to the campus, we were greeted with a light breakfast
which we dived into, while finding a seat in the large meeting room. I was
privileged enough to sit next to Chris De Herrera and his very cool Casio Fiva
mini notebook computer (I really need to buy a notebook!).

Judie: Yeah, I was sitting on Julie’s other
side. I guess she wasn’t privileged enough to mention that! ;0) 

Judie: Those notebooks that you see in the above
pictures were very cool. Not only did they have the Möbius Logo on them, but
they also had a removable metal binder inside: they could be used as notebook
computer cases, too. (Yeah, now I just need to buy a notebook computer!) 

As we filed into the room, we could see Microsoft
company store shopping bags that were loaded with items under the
whiteboard in the front of the room. We were all trying to be blasé about it,
but we were eager to peek in the bags! To make matters worse, we could
see a stack of boxed iPAQs behind the podium…

Julie: Next, our hosts Beth Goza and Derek Brown, arrived to start the conference. 

Judie: Beth said that they had debated giving us
the samples first, but then they decided to wait, so that they could ensure that
we weren’t distracted during the day’s events. (Beth mentioned that she was once
a teacher, I have a feeling that she was a very effective one!)

Julie: For the next few hours, we listened to quite a few speakers talk on various mobile
topics. Here is a quick overview on some of them:

The first speaker was Juha Christiensen (Microsoft VP of Sales and Marketing) who
gave a short keynote for the event.

Sandra Vargas spoke on ActiveSync version 3.5. 

Derek Jacoby gave a very interesting demo on Speech Recognition technologies.

Judie: I was very excited to watch the
speech recognition demonstration – this is one of the features that I think will
help push PDAs into the mainstream. Not everyone is adept at text entry – so
imagine if you could simply speak to your PDA and have it enter
appointments, or enter text into Word documents. Awesome!

Julie: Another demo was given on the Microsoft Smart Phone (formerly known as
Stinger). I for one will be interested in buying this phone when it becomes
available hopefully in 2002. Some of the features that are interesting about
this phone are the fast address lookup keypad that reminds me of T9 type input
or the fast lookup feature that the Handspring Visor Edge has.

Judie: Don’t pay any attention to the Microsoft
casing, or the shape of the Smart Phone pictured below. While the final retail
versions will have the same 176 x 220 screen, the various hardware manufacturers
will be making their own versions of different casings to hold the phone’s
"guts". This is hardware built in a lab at Microsoft so that the
members on the Smart Phone team can work out any glitches in the software.

Susan  gave a lively demonstration on the .NET Framework Mobile Internet
Toolkit which allows webmasters to create one web page that is viewable on a
variety of mobile devices.

Zeke Koch who is the lead manager of the Pocket PC team, talked at length
regarding the new connection manager in Pocket PC 2002.

Notice the shopping bags and stacked iPAQs? Torture!!

Judie: One thing that we did during the day that
I thoroughly enjoyed, was to have roundtable discussion groups during lunch.
Beth and Derek gave us the assignment of trying to answer one of four specific

questions per group. The paraphrased questions were as follows:

1. What is the "Zen" of mobile
2. Is there an über-device? What would it be?
3. What is the "tipping point" for wireless?

4. What are the killer mobile applications? What applications are we still
waiting for?

Needless to say: with this many opinionated people in
one room, the discussions were quite lively! Each group had a different
moderator that was basically there to write down our thoughts, so that we could
present them to the entire group the next day. 

Julie: Of course, the information that Judie and I were probably most excited to
hear about was concerning Pocket PC 2002. Derek and Beth tortured us by making
us wait till 3:00pm to get our hands on actual devices
with this new update. We were all given a flash upgraded 64mb iPAQ and some other
goodies that would allow us to take full advantage of the Pocket PC

This bundle
of goodies included various editions of software, a Pharos GPS module with Pocket Streets 2002, a
Swiss Army Knife Cyber tool, and more.

Judie: Julie and I elected to have our goodies
shipped to us. Since we have not yet received them, we are unable to give you a
full list of the contents. We will update this article at a later time, and let
you know about the products, and some of our quick impressions of them.

Julie: The units we were given did not have the production upgrade.
These were 16MB ROM units, and they had the equivalent of the upgrade that
Compaq will be offering to current iPAQ owners later this year. Unfortunately,
the new Spell Checker was not included and a big chunk of the software had to be
installed in RAM. 

Here is a list of the major changes and additions and our impressions of

Changes / Additions to Pocket PC 2002

User Interface changes:

  • Close Button on menu bar. This is really a "smart minimize" feature and
    actually shut down the application
  • Windows XP interface styling, new icons
  • Customizable (Skinning) of the Today Screen (more like "themes"

    than "skins")

  • Notification Bubbles – Tapping the speaker icon on the menu bar brings up
    a bubble with the volume control. You can also tap on the time in the menu bar
    at which point the date, your next appointment and the battery status will be
    displayed in a bubble. MSN chat alerts and appointment alarms will also pop up
    in a bubble
  • Animations thru tap and hold


Security and Connectivity:

  • Ability to access corporate networks via virtual private network (VPN) or
    the Terminal Services Client (TSC).
  • Strong password support
  • Anti-virus hooks
  • Beaming support thru the OBEX (Object Exchange) protocol – Now you
    can actually beam and receive (without the need of 3rd party apps such as
    Peacemaker) contacts, tasks, appointments to and from Palm devices and
    mobile phones 
  • Enhanced File Explorer 
  • Better connection manager
  • Desktop Pass Through – Ability to surf the web and access file shares thru
    the Pocket PC while it is in the cradle and your PC is connected to the
  • MSN Messenger included

Application Enhancements:

Pocket Outlook-

  • Syncing of Outlook folders. You can specify which folders you actually
    want to sync thru the desktop ActiveSync settings
  • HTML viewable email. Text is stripped out of the message and displayed as
  • Spell Checker
  • Quick Text responses

Pocket Internet Explorer-

  • Increased standards support (e.g., HTML 3.2, WAP 1.2.1 and CHTML)
  • Ability to set the text download priority when downloading web pages
  • Selective image downloading
  • File download support


  • View contacts by company
  • Reordered Contacts fields
  • Meeting attendees visible in Calendar
  • Icons that switch between different calendar views (agenda, day, week,
    month and year)

Windows Media Player version 8 –

  • Support for streaming audio and video
  • Skinnable interface
  • Web favorites
  • Un-map buttons option

The new skinnable interface is cool! The Möbius skin that you see in these
screen shots was created by Dale Coffing. Microsoft will be releasing more and
more themes, or we will be able to create our own.

Microsoft Reader –

  • Owner Exclusive DRM 5 support

Other –

  • Transcriber & Block Recognizer in ROM

Julie: Wow, Palm users that might want to move to the Pocket PC platform will feel
right at home with the new Block Recognizer. It works and feels exactly like the
Graffiti we are all familiar with. The only thing that won’t work (as far as I
could tell) are the slash commands for copy and paste.

Judie: I don’t know if it is just me or not, but
I have noticed a few Graffiti letters (like the letter "Y", for
example) that I can’t write the same way on my iPAQ as I do on my Palms. But
overall, I think that Block Recognizer is a winner! :0)  

Julie: Transcriber has also been updated and is loaded in ROM. I found it to be
quite a bit better at recognizing my writing – even when I write diagonally. I
might actually start using it as my main input method. 

I have to say that I really like this upgrade! It feels faster and more
responsive to me. I love the new XP-like look to the interface. But looks aren’t
everything of course… I think the additional features such as the Block
Recognizer, Spell Checker and Inbox syncing really make this version worth
upgrading too.  My personal favorite features of this upgrade are:

Inbox Syncing.
Skinnable interface. What can I say, I like eye candy!
Your place
is remembered in certain apps. If you are in the Notes list and scroll down to
delete a note, your view will remain at that location. It won’t jump back up to
the top. Your place is remembered in Pocket IE too. This drove me nuts on the
previous version.

Judie: I really like the new XP style, and Julie
is right – everything does seem faster! I have noticed some incompatibilities
with software that I have tried to install – but considering that we got the new
OS before many of the software developers did – that is to be expected. I am
sure that shortly after the launch date these issues will be worked out.

Things that should have been added but are missing:

No MAC support
No real CLOSE button
Better Round Tripping
A way to keep input preferences after a "soft" reset

A lot of you
may be wondering how you can get this upgrade for your current Pocket PC. If you
have an iPAQ or an Amigo, you’re in luck because the ROM is flash based, and you
will be able to install the "Professional" version. 

Judie: Evidently, Compaq will be offering a CD
upgrade for $29.99 that will install the basic, or Professional version of
Pocket PC 2002. 

The "Premium" version is the one that will
ship with most new Pocket PCs – it includes MSN instant messaging,
Spell-checker, terminal services client, Microsoft Reader (!!), and Media
Player8 in ROM; as well as some other enhancements.

Julie: Unfortunately, Casio and HP owners are pretty much S.O.L.. 

Judie: At this time, the spell checker
will not be included in the iPAQ / Amigo upgrades. It is too large for the ROM,
and evidently there aren’t any plans to offer it as an add-on RAM program…yet.

Julie: The latest news concerning iPAQ upgrades is that Compaq will start taking
orders after September 17th, and the CDs will begin shipping in mid-October.
Users who purchase iPAQs between
September 6th and November 30th, 2001 will get the upgrade for free, the only
cost to them being S&H. 

While we were all digging into our goodie bags, Derek brought in the new HP
560 and Toshiba Genio devices for us all to drool over. Everyone made a mad dash

to the front of the room to check them out. Judie and I waited till everyone had
finished looking at them so we could get our turn. We didn’t take any pictures
mainly because there are quite a few already floating around. We decided to
focus on what the units actually ‘felt’ like. 

A few people had told me that they were disappointed in the HP unit because
they thought it felt too cheap and light weight. In my opinion, it felt fine.
The only thing that disappointed me was that it is all plastic. No more metal
casing. Other than that, I am very excited about this new Pocket PC. The screen
is just gorgeous! I am not sure what I think about the unusual joy pad
though…. I kept trying to press it in to select something and then realized
that there is a separate ring around the pad that is used for that purpose.

The Genio is interesting. From the size of the unit, to the color of the
plastic casing and rubber sides, it looks like a sibling of the Sony Clie 710c.
I was someone disappointed in the quality of the display. It didn’t look as even
and bright as the iPAQ. But, with a built in CF and SD slot, it is going to be a
popular PPC.

Judie: If the Genio had had the HP’s screen, it
would have been a no-brainer. Looking at the two units together was agonizing,
though…both were very cool. The Genio was also cool, because it was a Japanese
OS model. While we could easily get a feel for the unit, we had to rely on past
experience as to what the characters meant.

Julie: Immediately following the last speaker, we were bussed to the Microsoft Museum where we could
look at exhibits, and play some fun games on PCs and check out the cool new
Xbox. Needless to say, that was quite a bit of fun!

Judie: I am not a big gamer (off of my Pocket
PC, of course), so I didn’t know if I would really care about the Xbox or not.
Well, I may just have to get one! It was amazingly fun, the graphics were FAB,
and sitting next to 3 other people playing and yelling at the screen was a
different kind of experience than I usually have when playing by myself on my
PDA. I gave up my seat so Jen Edwards could play, and I snapped this picture of
the group. 

Look how we were all huddled around a tiny screen! Of
course, we found out later that there was a large screen TV hooked up to the
Xbox in a different area of the museum.

Left to right: Nathan Miller, Jen Edwards ( and Julie

Julie: One cool device that they had on display was the PC-EPhone. Judie and I
played with it briefly and found the screen and size to be pretty cool.

Judie: Worth noting
is that the PC-EPhone is not actually a Pocket PC at all, it is a Handheld PC
without a keyboard. The resolution on its screen rivaled the Korean Handheld PCs
that Julie and I liked so much at COMDEX.

It was late when we got back to the hotel, and I think
we were feeling the time difference! 


Julie: The next morning we were shuttled back to the Microsoft campus to wrap up the
conference. We had split up into groups the day before to discuss some topics
and during this last day, we discussed our findings with the entire group. I
found Derek and Beth to be truly interested in all our ideas. 

After the day wrapped up, we went outside and enjoyed the beautiful day and
excellent conversations. 

Left to right: Jennifer, Jim, Dale, and Judie

Judie: We had some free time while we were
waiting for the bus, so we took this opportunity to do what we geeks do best:
figure stuff out! Tim Warner and I both have Kyocera
, and we were thinking that it would be truly excellent (and
slightly ironic) if we could use the IR ports on our Kyoceras and iPAQs to
browse the internet using the Kyocera as a modem. Dale Coffing was game, and so
we went inside where it was a little bit cooler (and less bright) to give it is

We didn’t exactly succeed, but it was fun trying!

Next, we loaded into the bus, headed for the hotel. We
had a couple hours of free time, to rest, before we went out to eat.

Julie: Möbius ended with dinner at the Spazzo Mediterranean Grill
restaurant. One thing I remember from that night was Jim McCarthy coming to
the table where I was sitting and asking if it was the ‘cool’ table. :o) We
ended up talking quite a bit about iPAQ accessories, web site maintenance and
other fun topics. The food was good, the company was interesting, and the night
ended too quickly.

Devin Pike – he got us to the restaurant when our bus driver
got lost!

Judie: Actually, ours was the cool table!
I got to enjoy the evening with Chris De Herrera (,
Tim Warner, Bill Boonn, Barry Zellen (Wireless
), Jeff Kirvin, Devin Pike (

James Hromdaka, Jim McCarthy, and Julie. The food was
wonderful, sort of a family-style atmosphere, where you served yourself from
heaping platters of steaming food in the middle of the table.

Tim Warner & Chris De Herrera

After dinner, we had the option of riding the bus back
to the hotel or waiting for the next one at 10:00pm. Since I was having such a
great time talking to Chris De Herrera and the others, I opted to stay. Julie
and Jim ditched us, and went back to the hotel! 

After hanging out at Spazzo for another hour or so, the
party was ready to move. But not before I got the following recorded quotes from
some of the people that had stayed:

Derek Brown: "This is so much fun, I can’t
believe I get paid for it!"

Andreas Sjostrom ( and "With
Pocket PC 2002 , we’re going to see a lot of really interesting business
applications developed for the enterprise. This is the release that will
definitely drive the next generation of global solutions for corporations."
(Said with a Swedish accent)
Arne Hess (

"It was a great pleasure to meet all these PDA guys here in Seattle."
(Said with a German accent)
Chris De Herrera: "I believe that the
Microsoft Möbius event was really focused on building community and having
people focus on the features and capabilities of what the Pocket PC has to
offer. While the Pocket PC may not be as ‘simple’ as the Palm, the sophisticated
features and the multi-media capabilities, really excite a lot of
Devin Pike: "The Möbius event was impressive
to me because they reached out to people even though they knew that the majority
of them were not Pocket PC enthusiasts. Palm Enthusiasts, other Platforms, and
they actually made the effort to say look, ‘this is why our platform is great,
and this is why you need to be writing about it’, and that was my impression of
the event." "…and I would like to say for every other person here at
the table, Active-Sync for the Mac! Thank you!"
Jeff Kivin: "What impressed me most about this was how they took our
suggestions seriously, even when we vehemently disagreed with their design
James Hromdaka: "I’m very new to the
Pocket PC, as I have never really dabbled with it, but what I’ve seen so far has
impressed me somewhat. It has a long way to go to reach the simplicity of the
Palm operating system, but Microsoft is getting there and Palm really needs to
get on the stick to improve their interface to add more features to keep ahead
of Microsoft."

Marlof Bregonje ( "Can’t
stop thinking…Pocket PC 2002, it is really cool!" (Said with a
Netherlands accent)
Mark Zimmerman (Zimac):
"Just like the Pocket PC 2002, this conference really rocks!" (Said
with a German accent)

We all decided to walk back to the Bellevue Club, since
we weren’t far away. There was much merriment as we imitated Marlof’s
pronunciation of Möbius. Since he managed to say it in such a manner that it
imitated an ailing cow, we were obliged to imitate him. Over, and over, and
over. It seemed reaaallllllly funny – at the time!

On the way, some of us decided to stop at Aztecas, a
local restaurant. We hung out there for a while and talked about different PDAs
and computers that we all had owned over the years. It was quite amazing
to be around a group of people that were just as geeky as me. I had a great

Walking back to the hotel, I caught Chris recording our
silly banter on his iPAQ…possible blackmail material? Hmmmmmmm? :0)


Judie: Julie and I met up in the Bellevue’s
lobby, and hung out for a while with some of the other attendees as we were
preparing to catch our shuttle to the airport. I was really sad to go! I feel
like I not only had a great time while learning about the new Pocket PC
operating system, but I also made some great new friends!

I believe that while we all had a good time as
Microsoft’s guests; we all also came away impressed with the fact that the
Pocket PC team is committed to listening to what PDA users want and need.
Microsoft’s Pocket PC may not yet be completely perfect, but I genuinely believe
they are trying to make it so.  

This article wouldn’t be complete without a shot of Mt.
Ranier, taken as we were flying directly over it. Simply awe-inspiring…

Julie: Personally, I found Möbius 2001 to be another indicator that Microsoft is
trying to do things right. They are really interested in making the Pocket PC a
great device with great features and I feel they are on the right path.

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