Thursday 31 January 2008

Windows Live Mail on Windows Mobile 6

I have a Samsung Blackjack that I recently upgraded to Windows Mobile 6. I like it a lot and I want to use it for more stuff. I also have a pretty nice Windows Live mail address that is 10 characters long including all the @'s and .'s which was a pretty good trick I thought and it is a good enough e-mail address that I'd actually like to hold on to it for as long as possible and heck, you know, make use of it on my phone. Since Windows Mobile and Windows Live both got major releases\udates last year there was a good opportunity for some collaboration between the Live Services folks and the Windows Mobile folks to get something like "Push Mail for Hotmail" working and my understanding all along is that once I got WM6 running I could dive in and get cool integrated stuff, easy as pie.

To be fair to the Windows Mobile and Live Services guys they seem to have delivered what I'm looking for. You get this wonderfully integrated client with the WM6 platform called Windows Live for Mobile. As you'd expect you enter your credentials into it and you have  Search, Mail, IM and maybe more all working hyper snappy because the client is designed to deliver content perfectly on small screen devices over relatively low bandwidth links. Apparently, I believe. I can't say whether it actually does or not because my Windows Mobile 6 device doesn't include this helper app and that appears to be a common problem, at least with AT&T supplied devices. Because of the way the WM platform is engineered and the fact that OEM's and Telecom Carriers get to decide what is actually included in the package many of the WM6 devices that end users are buying have specific Microsoft supplied components removed. To make this even more of a pain you can't (easily* or legally**) get a copy of the missing bits and install them yourself manually. If optional OS components are not delivered by your Carrier\OEM then tough luck, you just ain't getting them buddy.

What's worse is that I can't even use POP\IMAP to sync Live Mail with the built in e-mail client on my phone because I don't have a premium account. The only option available to me on my phone is to use the interface over Pocket-IE. That works and it's a pretty well streamlined web app optimised effectively for mobile phone use but it's nowhere near as slick as a native e-mail client would be.

In stark contrast to this I am able to set up and configure my Gmail account to work with Windows Mobile's built in e-mail client. The process even has an automated setup where the Windows Mobile E-Mail client automatically handles all the nasty POP\IMAP\SMTP server configuration stuff and the result works perfectly well me.

I understand that Microsoft has an operational strategy for that has led to the limitations on POP\IMAP access so that only paying subscribers get access to offline mail through third party app's and I understand that Windows Mobile has had to allow OEM's (and Cellular Telco's in particular) to remove some features they see as competing with products of their own. However the end result is the absolute lunacy of a situation where this degraded Windows Mobile 6 mail client provides me with a (far) better service from Gmail on Windows Mobile than I do from Microsoft's own Windows Live product.

I'm not without resources as far as the Windows Mobile Platform is concerned and since I got a bit irritated as I finished that last paragraph I decided to see how hard it would be to fix this. I pulled a copy of the relevant files from a WM6 platform setup which gave me the "Windows Live for Mobile" installation bits.  I was able to install it on my phone just like any other app and now I have a the nice compact Windows Live client with my Live Mail configured. Configuration is just as it should be - username and password only and off you go. So it would be possible for Microsoft to provide a one shot installer and config utility for any (application unlocked***) WM6 phones if someone was to really want to do it.

Anyway I have it working after a little work (and it works excellently) but I can't help but think that this is not a good way to go about increasing market share.

  • * For your average punter - clearly if you know about * it will be fairly easy for you.
  • ** See above, it might be pretty easy but it's certainly legally suspect and in breach of someone's TOS
  • *** Most are these days by default but if not the net provides sufficient info on how to unlock most that aren't.


Nisheeth said...

I pretty much went through the same discovery process. I was all excited about Windows Live for Windows Mobile and took precious time out of my workday to upgrade to WM6 only to find what - that they conveniently left out Windows Live!!

Oh the frustration!

So I googled around until I found the site and installed Windows Live. I can see full email (hotmail) content in true html but does it suck my battery or what. My battery usually goes down to one bar by the time I go to bed, with Windows Live, I'm down to one bar by lunch time.

I'm guessing this is because Windows Live while claiming to be 'push' is truly a 'pull every minute' feature when set to sync 'as items arrive'. Couple of reasons why I think so:
* Windows Live actually has a sync schedule setting where one can select from the following options: Manual, As items arrive, Every 15 minutes, 30 minutes etc. If this was truly 'push' email, these options would not exist just as they don't for Outlook on Windows Mobile. I have been using Outook syncing over-the-air for months and it never drained my battery like this because its truly push email.
* When I set the sync schedule to 'As items arrive', I can see my device displaying the circular, multi-colored 'busy' icon almost non-stop - leading me to believe that Windows Live tries to synce every minute. I set the sync schedule to Manual and no more busy icons.

Maybe there is a better version of Windows Live lying around that has the true push feature - does anyone know?

helvick said...

It's unfortunate that that is the case but thanks for the confirmation all the same. I suspected that that might happen but I hoped that since the Live Mobile Mail protocols were all handled by additional services installed with the client that it might not be the case. I spent a lot of time setting up an MS Exchange Push Mail service at work over he last few years and with WM6 devices and Exchange 2007 infrastructure it is now pretty efficient in Push Mail mode. There is no really compelling technical reason why Microsoft couldn't have used the same protocol design for Live Mobile mail since it's their own in any case and only has to work with their own clients. I suspect that their motivation is to provide an incentive to people who want Push Mail style delivery to the full blown commercial offering delivered via Exchange & Small Business Server (at least I think SBS or whatever it's called these days also provides it).

Nisheeth said...

Actually, Microsoft has since then made available a true push solution for hotmail, works pretty well in pushing an email as soon as it comes in. Download here:

Minor issues:
* Can only sync one hotmail account
* Only displays most recent 50 messages in inbox
* Does not sync sent items

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