Editor’s Note, July 2007: What is Mobility?

In this month's ednote, we asked for you to let us know how you were using mobile computing. Well? Let's hear it! Don't be shy!

What do you think of when  you hear the word "mobility?" It differs by generation. One person might think of a motorized scooter while another reflects on his own car and how it frees him from the horrors of safe, reliable, fiscally sound mass transit. Geeks of a certain age remember a Kaypro computer that was "portable"—though it felt like a cinder block with a handle. Today, the definition of mobile is both narrowing and broadening at once.

"But how is that even possible?" you might ask, scratching your head. It’s quite possible, and it’s a matter of consumer expectations on both ends.

No longer is mobility merely a function of location. Just because you can use a device away from the office doesn’t mean that it’s in any way a rich and rewarding experience. Look at Pocket PCs, for instance. Sure, you can use them for e-mail and associated tasks, but unless you’re always online you have to intentionally sync them up when you’re at base. Now look at a Windows Mobile phone, such as the Treo. It looks the same, sure, but this device automatically connects and keeps your e-mail up-to-date wherever you are. The definition of truly mobile computing has narrowed.

At the same time, the number of devices that fit into this category has expanded enormously. Smartphones are the norm now—and if you don’t believe us, take a look at what people are using on trains, in stores, and while behind the wheel of the car next to yours. With the growth in this category, mobile devices have finally moved from niche to mainstream in the past year. If you have one of these gadgets, chances are you are wondering how you ever lived without it. From sending text messages to someone in the next room to playing Freecell while driving, they offer unmatched utility.

With Ultra-Mobile PCs, there’s more continuity in the marketplace now. You can choose just about any size device that suits you. However, with all those machines out there, there’s a lot of stuff you should think about when writing your app, whether you’re designing it for mobile devices or for regular desktop machines.

To that end, this issue of MSDN Magazine features two articles to help you design programs that will serve the full range of form factors, from the smallest Smartphone to the bulkiest laptop. The first is "Make Your WPF Apps Power-Aware," by Andre Michaud. Andre discusses power management support for apps that employ Windows Presentation Foundation on both Windows XP and Windows Vista, and how to write your applications to take full advantage of it so that portable devices can enjoy better battery life.

Daniel Moth takes an in-depth look at the .NET Compact Framework in his article, "Write Code Once For Both Mobile And Desktop Apps." Specifically, he explores how you can share your code between a standard desktop version of your app and a version that runs on a smart device. Can desktop apps be modified for mobile devices? Can mobile apps run on a desktop machine? Can you even reuse your codebase across the platforms? If you’re easily startled, you better sit down before reading the shocking answer!

With the newest devices and rapid improvement in existing forms, mobile computing is on a roll right now. How is it working for you? Let us know, and join the discussion on the MSDN Magazine blog. We look forward to chatting with you. —J.T.

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