Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hotmail & the iPhone

When I was in college our Programming lecturer cautioned against a career in I.T. due to the need to keep up with the constantly changing technologies such a career entails. Personally, I thought that sounds brilliant, always something new to learn and play with, bring it on, I said. Later on in my education I encountered other lecturers who said that yes, keeping up can be difficult as well as fun but there are some fundamental skills you can learn that transcend specific technologies (which is why good developers are able to learn several languages as long as they have a good grasp of the principles of programming).

I.T. is constantly changing and with that pace of change some technologies come into and slip out of fashion quite quickly. As technologies like smartphones and other internet devices become accepted by wider audiences than traditional I.T. people, fashion plays an increasingly important role. For example, the iPhone.

I've been using the iPhone for over two years now, having started out on a 3G and moving to the 3GS (I'm now waiting to see what Apple do next before having an "accident" that will justify a new phone). I do not feel like much of an Apple fanboy and have endeavoured to be quite critical of the iPhone in order to ensure that I wasn't just following the trend but was actually getting good tech for my money. My critical analysis of the iPhone has left me feeling that the best has yet to come especially as there's no escaping the fact that, really, it's not a great phone (that is, a device for making phone calls), but that it does do a lot of different things well that when put together make it the best choice.

I've looked at and used other smartphones, having been a Blackberry user before the iPhone, and I've implemented HTC handsets at work as there are some serious concerns about using iTunes (a necessity for the iPhone) in a multi-national corporate environment. I've seen a nice Android handset recently and I would like to see what Android can do differently/better then the iPhone. But for the time being I'm sticking with the boys from Cupertino.

As I'm on the 3GS I find myself increasingly getting into conversations with iPhone 4 users about the merits of that version of the phone and the challenges it has faced since its launch (the dodgy reception problem that's become known as Antennagate for example). 4 users, perhaps subconsciously, sometimes look down on 3GS users, and we in turn sneer at 3G users, and they mock Nokia users. This has little to do with technology, often nothing, as the users are rarely techies. This is powerful marketing at work that has made the latest slick device from Apple a fashionable thing to own.

Fashion in technology manifests itself quite graphically in email providers too. While I was at college, trying to ignore lecturers giving careers advice, I set up my first free email account with Hotmail. I've had a Hotmail account since February 1997, which was before Microsoft owned it and back when it ran on Unix servers. There have been other email addresses but for the sake of history and to maintain some "really early adopter" cred I've held on to the account.

There is a prejudice against certain email addresses. Obviously, addresses that are made up of some nickname are not going to fly if you're trying to pass yourself off professionally but the provider you choose, it is claimed, reveals something about you too. Worryingly it can be people who might be hiring you for a job that can subscribe to this notion and may automatically reject you for a high-tech position if you come with an old email address, or so it is suggested on some websites.


This is a tragedy as far as I'm concerned as I like my Hotmail address and have found the latest Hotmail integration with the iPhone to be excellent. Up to now getting email on the phone hasn't been a problem, but I really wanted push notifications (easy-peasy for Hotmail) and Calendars/To Do reminders to synchronise with the phone and the account, which are now working perfectly since you can configure the Hotmail account to act like an Exchange account on the iPhone.

The debate about email addresses and what they say about you leads me back to what my slightly more enlightened lecturers taught about good fundamentals. While @hotmail.com might not be the most desirable address in the world, and while Microsoft hasn’t had the best track record running Hotmail, as an email platform it's not bad and it does allow for good integration of other accounts. So, while I might be rocking a Gmail account and will certainly sign up to the next trendy service provider who comes along, I can manage it all from my dinosaur of a Hotmail account.... and access it from my iPhone (whenever I get a signal).

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