From Windows Mobile 5 to Office 365 - benefits to management

Isn't life strange, especially when it comes to technology? One moment you can feel nicely ahead of the curve, and the next you're lagging way behind. I guess this is often the case when you find a system you like and get used to it, leaving you wide open to new developments coming along and bulldozing your chosen way of working.

So it was with Windows Mobile 5 on an O2 PDA phone I bought or leased (can't remember which) around 2003/4. That felt great. No-one, but no-one I met in those days had ever seen anything like it. "You mean you've got a complete office in your pocket?" some would gasp, at a time when email on the move was almost unknown by the population at large, and a "smart" phone meant one with a nice case. The Windows phone became my inputting device of choice.

The syncing was so good and the system so reliable, I'd input all contact details into the phone, and then occasionally - certainly not every day and probably not as frequently as I should - I would connect the phone to my PC via good old ActivSync.

Up would pop the little rotating curly green logo, the two devices would ping in delight at being re-united via the cable, and I'd celebrate the fact that once more my data was being safely backed up, and not only would I not lose it if the phone went missing, I could use it on the PC's version of Outlook to email people etc.

One of the best aspects was that the Windows contact system had Categories. I quickly evolved a system of filing contacts under events I'd been to, or particular areas of interest, each with its own Category. At both work and play the Categories became an essential part of the phone-PC-Outlook partnership. I soon had Categories for everything from restaurants and conference facilities, to garden designers and graphic designers. It also suited me that where necessary a contact could have more than one Category. Well done Bill.

The phone became more and more indispensable, even ending up with a neat little Bluetooth keyboard with a dinky stand for the phone, which turned it into a mini-laptop. All incredibly useful, and with its decent-sized screen, it was a great workstation-on-the-move, in a small neat packet able to fit into two pockets. Again none of my friends had seen anything like it.

I actually had several PDA phones of a similar type. Sometimes silver, sometimes black. Over time the buttons would get dust in them and become less than reliable (an advantage of today's touch screens) but I still loved them. On one occasion O2 sold me two returned PDA phones in boxes, for £100 for the pair, which was brilliant. They kept me going for ages, but I guess the writing was on the wall and I realised that sooner or later "progress" would rear its head. I could see people starting to use Blackberries, Android devices and iPhones.

By now it was 2009 and realising I didn't want to fall too far behind, I succumbed to the offer of an upgrade iPhone. It took a little bit of learning, but I told myself it was a necessary part of keeping up with the Jones'. Even in 2010 when Windows Mobile 7 phones were being promoted, to my slight dismay, these seemed to be much more about downloading music and entertainment, and were no longer the functional devices I'd become used to.

The iPhone seemed to sync OK, now of course via iTunes. Trouble was, there was no way of adding Categories. It was assumed Personal Users (as distinct from Business Users) would have little use for categories. For a while I thought I could manage without. I tried some alternative contacts Apps. One which by its name seemed to promise rapid operation proved incredibly slow. I also tried FileMaker's app for the iPhone (having become a devotee on the PC years before) but was saddened to find it couldn't be customised to add fields like Categories on the phone itself.

Then someone lent me an HTC with Windows Mobile 6.5 - with Categories and a nice big screen. Bliss! A reasonably advanced phone, but still with enough of the "old" system to be familiar. I went out and bought one. Many thought I was mad splashing out £400 on a phone that was half a click behind on the Windows scale of development, but I didn't care. Welcome back ActivSync!

However after a few months, a couple of business associates pointed out that I could have all the benefits and more, if I switched to something called Microsoft Office 365. They were horrified I think, that I hadn't got access to emails I'd already read on my PC back at the office. Never having personally used "the cloud" before ("does it work on fine days?" I enquired, only half joking), I couldn't quite see how life without a sync cable was going to be better.

But once they'd set me up it was a real revelation. An epiphany. A game-changer. Everything was suddenly there on the phone. What had previously been an essential communications and data inputting device became an even more essential piece of kit.

I could check emails on the phone while watching TV (though this didn't endear it to Mrs C), and contacts updated on either the phone or the PC appeared almost instantly on the other device as if by magic.

To be honest with the HTC (Win 6.5) device I've never used the rest of the Office suite in the way I'd done previously on the old PDA phone. Bluetooth keyboards seemed to have disappeared, and in any case I was now using a small Sony laptop I'd bought (with broadband dongle and dictation software) for applications where a lot of typing on the move was required.

So the phone has remained a tool mainly for emails and contacts, and occasionally web browsing. I can of course read documents in PDF form, but as I say am probably not using Office 365 to its fullest extent. Anyway one thing is certain - I have become a convert to The Cloud. I have contacts with Categories as well as email on the move, and I can refer back to previous mails etc. I'm not a techie. I just want something which helps me work the way I want to, and this set-up does that brilliantly.

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Jonathan is the inventor of Matrix Pattern Authentication, which in its latest incarnation (pin+TM) makes it possible for anyone needing to log into everything from a PC to a phone (or even a door lock), with a one-time code, instead of vulnerable/insecure passwords, PINs and combinations without the needs for token and apps.

UK-based PinPlus Limited, of which Jonathan is chairman, has developed pin+ into a complete ready-to-use solution, with the potential to replace all fixed user-IDs. The company is working on a solution for securing data on mobile phones and as a way to log into Office 365 itself, convinced that fixed PINs leave users, especially in crowded locations, too vulnerable to techniques such as shoulder-surfing of login codes.