The Product: The Microsoft backed Zumobi browser for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 phones consists of bite-sized web content called "tiles" (a new fangled term for "widget") that offers users a customized, shareable web browsing experience.

The Price: Free

The Performance: Zumobi is, in reality, a fancy widget application. So don't be fooled into thinking that this is some sort of robust new browser for Windows Mobile devices. Basically, Zumobi piggybacks on Internet Explorer to provide content for these "tiles" that can range from news content to small apps and games. Zumobi currently falls under the invisible "beta" umbrella of protection, but nonetheless, I found my experience with the platform to be largely frustrating and generally unentertaining (except for the douchebag part in the video).

First of all, Zumobi was a bit on the slow side and it was awkward to navigate the UI with the the T-Mobile Shadow I was using. Selecting and downloading tiles from the online gallery was an easy process, but a manual refresh option to update time-sensitive tiles that provide information like news, sports, and traffic tiles is sorely needed. On the plus side, the developers have assured me that this feature will be arriving post-beta.

I was also frustrated with what I considered to be a cluttered UI. Gray boxes and tiles abound with no real structure or organization. My feeling was that things needed to be cleaned up, and some sort of category driven layout would be necessary as the number of available tiles increased. The developers argued that the boxes were necessary to provide orientation adaptation and a consistent resolution target for the dev community. They also noted that research showed that users wanted to know where things were spatially—and a category driven layout on the users "zoom space" wouldn't work. While I can not pretend that I am in touch with the needs of developers using Zumobi's SDK, I can tell you that a zoom space consisting of 100 tiles arranged willy-nilly would be much harder to navigate than those same tiles broken down into categories (keep in mind that the current zoom space can only accommodate 16 tiles).

The Verdict: Not my cup of tea. I feel that there is potential here, but the execution falls a bit short and the appeal will most likely be confined to those who would enjoy a "novelty" experience as opposed to a hardcore functional browser. However, given the fact that it is free (and the advertising is pretty unobtrusive) it is definitely worth a shot for anyone. Just make sure you have an unlimited data plan. [Zumobi]

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