Mobile woes: A tepid BlackBerry, Flash still MIA, Microsoft's voice delusion

RIM, Adobe, and Microsoft all had a bad week, replete with lipstick-on-pig events

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Maybe Steve Jobs was right in saying Flash would never really work on mobile.

Microsoft bets on speech to save Windows Phone 7
What do you do when you are about to ship a long-awaited mobile OS that turns out not to use the current capabilities found in your major competitors? You can't of course publicly admit that your mobile OS is doomed because it's two or three years out of date coming upon release -- the case for Windows Phone 7.

Instead, you try to invent something cool, and that's what Microsoft did this week for Windows Phone 7. Of course, Microsoft used one of the oldest, most oversold technology promises ever in its attempt to make Windows Phone 7 look sexy: speech interfaces. Forget those clumsy touchscreens and awkward icons; a Microsoft rep even had the gall to compare competitors' use of icons to the long-outdated Windows 3.1 interface. A Windows Phone 7 device will act like the Enterprise computer in "Star Trek" or the appliances in "The Jetsons" or the HAL computer in "2001: A Space Odyssey" -- on second thought, maybe not like the murderous HAL.

Tech companies trot out voice recognition every time they have nothing valuable to offer, hoping to tap into a knee-jerk "that's so cool!" reaction from the public. Like mobile TV, voice recognition is one of those technology concepts everyone thinks they love (see aforementioned TV shows) -- until they use it, of course. You do love all those voice-reponse systems when you call the airline or the phone company, right? And given that speech recognition has been avaialble for about 15 years on your PC or Mac, you use it there, don't you?

If so, you'll love what Microsoft is offering: voice recognition over the air, in which your commands are processed by a server in the clouds and converted into action on your smartphone. Boy, let's burn up those minutes and data plans! And waaait for the slow, usually incorrect response. Android has a similar capability for search, and it's amazingly frustrating to use, not to mention inaccurate.

The one good thing about Microsoft's fantasy about voice-command interfaces: You'll be able to identify a Windows Phone 7 user easily. Just listen for the person pleading with the phone to do what he asked. Whie the rest of us are quietly computing and communicating, he'll be hard to miss.

This article, "Mobile losers' desperate grasping at straws," was originally published at Read more of Gruman et al.'s Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at

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