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Mailbag: February 20, 2011

In this week's mailbag: Windows Phone 7 and SD memory expansion revisited, Google isn't innovative, Windows Phone and NFC, using Windows Phone as a Zune device, replacing Drive Extender in Windows Home Server 2011, and Office, Windows Phone 7, and Windows Live SkyDrive.

Have a question? I can't guarantee an answser, but I'll try. Drop me a note! (And let me know if you'd prefer not to have your name published.)

Windows Phone 7 and SD memory expansion revisited

David B. asks:

Back on November 6 you described adding additional memory to your Windows Phone, and said you would report on the experience. I don’t think you did.

Did you have any issues? Has Microsoft or AT&T ever issued guidance since Charlie Kindel’s “don’t” post?

My understanding is that Microsoft will not support this. I haven't provided enough updates about my experiences, however. Please note that I've covered this topic in my Windows Phone Secrets blog, including the November 6 post referenced above, Samsung Focus + microSD. What I wrote there still applies: "If my upgrade works, this proves nothing because others may do the same thing and fail. If my upgrade fails, Microsoft is right \\[in not recommending this.\\]" So. Anecdotally, I can tell you that I've experienced no issues after adding a 16 GB SD card to my Focus. I've used it daily ever since and have not yet reset the device.

Also anecdotally, based on the email and blog comments I've gotten, it seems like 16 GB cards have a higher success rate than 32 GB cards. But this isn't scientific and please do not base any buying decisions on this. I wish there was better news to report. But Microsoft, characteristically, has been pretty silent.

Google isn't innovative?

Andrew N. asks:

I was thinking about an article you wrote where you happen to mention that Android, and Google, are hardly innovative at all, and don’t have an “innovative bone in \\[their\\] corporate body”! How so? I can understand how Android could simply be a Linux based iPhone, but what about the rest of the company’s products?

This is probably worthy of a longer examination, but what it boils down to is this: Google is a huge company with a lot of cash and a lot of young, talented engineers. So they can throw money and people at problems, and they certainly release a lot of products and services. But the only thing they make money on is search-based advertising. And two recent events (their provably bogus accusations of Bing copying and news that JC Penny's PR firm was able to easily usurp the Google search engine to the tune of millions of dollars) suggests even that one effort isn't as sophisticated as we've been led to believe. Point being, they do some interesting stuff. But let's not confuse size and scope with innovation. At the end of the day, this is just a company that can afford to enter every single tech-related market on earth. And they do just that. Big, yes. Innovative? I don't buy into that.

Windows Phone and NFC

Shamim I. asks:

Do you know what Microsoft's stance is on NFC hardware support for the WP chassis specs, and the software stack required to go behind it?

I'm not a WP user yet, but am highly interested in investing in this platform, but not if the hardware is going to lag behind competitors by a year.

It will most certainly lag by at least a year. They have shown no indication that they are prepared to embrace next-generation technologies at anything resembling an aggressive pace. I wouldn't hold out for this.

NFC, by the way, is "Near Field Communication," a technology that RIM has publicly backed and Apple is rumored to include in the iPhone 5; it is essentially a way for a smart phone to be used as a credit card.

The rationale for my response: When you consider that Microsoft won't be adding basic phone features like multitasking support or Twitter integration to Windows Phone until late 2011, it's inconceivable that the company would jump on something as futuristic as NFC. I'd love to be proven wrong on this.

Use Windows Phone like a Zune device?

Justin B. asks:

Paul, is it possible to buy an unlocked Windows Phone 7 device without a contract and use it over Wi-Fi like an iPod Touch? I’m sick of iOS and iTunes and it doesn't look like a new Zune device is coming anytime soon.

Sure. It depends on where you are, but AT&T retail stores will sell you a Samsung Focus for $399 with no commitment, for example.

Zune hardware development ceased over a year ago. While it's possible that another group at Microsoft could create a phone-less Windows Phone device in the future, I have no knowledge of those plans. (And suspect it will not be branded as a Zune device since that brand is being phased out at the software giant. My guess--and yes, this is a guess--is that such a device would be branded as an Xbox device.)

Replacement for Drive Extender in Windows Home Server 2011

Many readers have written in with a heads-up about the following coming add-in for Windows Home Server 2011:

StableBit DrivePool for the Windows Home Server 2011

This add-in will let you add multiple hard drives into one combined storage pool on the Windows Home Server. You can create folder shares on this storage pool, and each folder on the pool can either be duplicated or not duplicated. Files placed in duplicated folders will be protected against single drive failure by being placed onto two separate hard drives.

The question here, of course, is whether I would use such a thing.

The answer is no.

The reason is simple: I don't know who these people are, or whether the product is stable or reliable. And this is my valuable personal and professional data at stake. I'm not trusting it to some random WHS add-in.

And as I explained in I'm Betting on Windows Home Server 2011 today, while I do miss Drive Extender, I believe I'll get along just fine without it.

Office, Windows Phone 7, and Windows Live SkyDrive

Rob N. asks:

I have a Windows Phone 7 device (HTC HD7) and I love it! But, I can't seem to figure out how to sync my SkyDrive documents with my Office hub. I have some Word, Excel and OneNote documents in my Windows Live account, but they don't sync with my Office hub at all. I want to open and edit my Skydrive docs on my WP7 device but can't seem to figure out how.

There's no sync between Office Mobile and SkyDrive (aside from OneNote) currently. That is coming in the Fall 2011 ("Mango") update, however. You can read more about this update in my commentary, Windows Phone 7 in 2011.

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