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ETech: Microsoft Launches DeepFish

Live Labs, Gary Flake’s organization (under Ray Ozzie), has released a new mobile browser for Windows Mobile 5. Deepfish as it’s called. When a URL is called it is proxied through Live Labs servers and an image of the page is downloaded quickly. You are able to pan the page and select places to zoom in. As they warn on their site it does not support cookies or javascript.
Josh Bancroft has made a video comparing Deepfish to the existing (and pretty sad) Pocker IE that comes with Win Mobile 5.

Here’s a 17 minute video I shot today showing off Deepfish, a new mobile web browser from Microsoft’s “Live Labs”. The video shows how Deepfish doesn’t try to squash normal-sized web pages onto your mobile device’s screen, but instead lets you scroll and pan smoothly, and zoom in to the parts of the page you want to read.

I also compare Deepfish to the default Pocket IE browser that comes with all Windows Mobile devices, so you can see what really makes it different.

This is a beta/tech preview of Deepfish, so there are some rough edges, but it’s a very cool technology – similar to the mobile Safari browser that Steve Jobs showed off on the iPhone.

You can find out more about Deepfish, and sign up to be a tester at labs.live.com/Deepfish/. There’s also another video overview on Microsoft’s Channel 10.

This video was shot with my Canon XH A1 HDV camcorder at 1080i, then edited in Apple iMovie 6 HD and exported as a 320×240 Quicktime video file. It weighs in at 312 MB, and was cropped from 16:9 widescreen to standard 4:3 aspect ratio (and I chopped off the sides of some of the titles/credits in the process – oops!).

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Let me know what you think, or if you have any questions! I don’t have any affiliation with Microsoft, but I’ll be happy to help if I can.

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  • Phil Atio

    Deepfish might be better than a kick in the teeth and certainly better than Pocket Internet Explorer and its ilk. But I think browsing the front page of nytimes.com using Deepfish is still only for masochists. Give me the dead tree version any day.

  • steve

    Gosh. Wow. I’m blown away. Saving a page to a picture. So innovative! Yes! WOW! The WOW IS NOW!

    How is it possible to have wall to wall PhDs like Microsoft Research, and only produce Clippy, a mouse wheel and now the highly innovative and industry changing save to picture?

    Even worse… how do they get people to cover this? Yes, you need to think more about what you post, Brady.

  • http://www.beeweeb.com Giampiero Recco

    The browser manufactures’ approach in trying to squeeze ordinary web site on the reduced screen size of mobile devices is probably one of the main reason for the slow taking off of the mobile web and of well designed mobile services.

    What people (and developers) need are predictable browsers (not complex ones) enriched with specific features to let web designer improve the usability of mobile sites.

    There’s no excuse for not supporting cookies, the main issue if you really use your mobile device is not about browsing, but typing in, with a small phone keypad, site names, your own access credentials and your email, so why do you want me to retype them every time??

    The old Internet Explorer has a feature to let users save their data while filling in web forms, on PC was very seldom used but such a features could be quite more interesting on mobile phones especially if coupled with the user ability to manage it’s data.

    Full style sheet support and very basic JavaScript would help a lot while designing usable mobile sites.

    Probably the biggest problem while on the go is latency and the inability to get a stable connection but a very basic JavaScript support could greatly reduce the number of access to the network.

    Look at drop down menu, in the past they have improved the web experience by giving instant access to the whole site map saving users lots of “clicks” to quickly access content relevant to them.

    Using a mobile device there should be even a greater demand of reducing clicks, instead we are given an interface that need even more clicks to pan around and zoom just to read content on the single web page. Plain ugly.

    By the way, I don’t blame Microsoft, actually I think that they are just following the wrong direction already initiated by others.

  • djol

    Any mobile browser development and advancement is good, but Deepfish does seem to have a while to go.

    If you have access to a Symbian 60 3rd edition phone (ie. recent Nokia smartphones, like N80, N93, E6x, etc.), check out the s60 browser. Based on Apple’s Safari, it is the first mobile browser I’ve used that isn’t like pulling my eyes out with toothpicks. It’s really incredibly usable – and it seems to achieve this simply by resizing the _column width_ (ie. NOT page width) to the mobile screen size – as well as lots of intuitive page-navigation and form-input behaviour. (It will even download linked media (audio, video, documents etc.) and display in appropriate app without closing the browser. No biggie, but nice.)

    On my N80, browsing pages designed for the desktop is a dream. (Ironically, it’s the sites that try to detect a mobile browser and then present a cutdown mobile-formatted page that provide the worst experience on the s60 browser – mainly because the view is inconsistent with what I’m used to on my desktop.)

    Food for thought.

    djol

  • http://tungwaiyip.info/ Wai Yip Tung

    Pain in the butt is what I would call it. Lot of trouble doing pan and zoom and there is no guarantee that the page is readable. About 4 minutes into the video when it is showing the “Intel Software Network Blog”, you can clearly see when it zooms into the blog entry, the text is too wide to fit the screen width. In the haste of showing the slickiness of the browser, he forgot to check if it is actually usable.

    Reformatting (aka squeezing) is great for mobile browser. It works for many text based website. There may be some sites like google map that deepfish might be useful because the graphics can’t be reformatted. But then deepfish doesn’t support javascript anyway.

    (disclaimer: I hasn’t finish watching the video)

  • http://tungwaiyip.info/ Wai Yip Tung

    Clarification to my last post: pictures can be reformatted. It usually reformat quite well for news articles. But it is hard to reformat and still keep it functional as it is originally designed, especially for complex applications like google map.