Windows Mobile: Wireless and Bluetooth Configuration

Back when wifi was first becoming standard on Windows laptops, it seemed that every laptop had it's own user interface for connecting to a network. On many machines, it usually went like this:

  1. There was the configuration provided by the manufacturer of the wireless card.
  2. Often, the OEM of the laptop included their own configuration tool as well.
  3. Finally, once Windows XP SP2 came out, there was the wireless configuration built into the operating system.

Sometimes, these tools would conflict, and Microsoft had to code a special option to disable XP's wireless stack if another stack was in use. Luckily, many OEM's are now using the built in tools, but some of the big ones still haven't got the point. My completely uneducated and cynical guess is that it's all because of marketing. After all, wireless access is still a feature to check off by customers. Having "wireless access by Dell" means that every time a user connects to a wifi network, they get exposed to the branding one more time.

It looks like Windows Mobile takes the same approach, for both Wifi and Bluetooth. At least on the iPAQ unit I'm using, there isn't any built in UI visible, so there aren't any conflicts in that respect. The wireless driver is provided by Broadcom, with customizations by HP. The interface itself is ugly, complicated, and non-standard. The main display is essentially a big picture, not matching any other theme on the device. It's not really any easier to use than Wifi on any other device I've used. For an example of a decent UI, take a look at connecting with a Nintendo DS.

The utility itself is also a bit buggy, or perhaps the underlying drivers are. I was copying some files off of the device via Bluetooth, when I noticed that the Wifi card was enabled. I clicked the button to turn it off to save power, and bam!, the unit locked up completely.

On a positive side, the device supports virtually every Bluetooth profile I can think of, including A2DP. While I was able to get it to sync, the audio was very choppy, though I think that's due to the headset, and not the unit itself. Hopefully someone else will have a pair of headphones to try it out with.

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