At about the time you read this column, the first models of Windows CE handheld personal computers (HPC) will be released in the UK. Models are due from Casio, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard, and possible from NEC. Good news is that they will all ship with version 1.1 of Windows CE. Details of what that will contain are not available at this point, but it seems likely that the minor changes necessary to support UK addresses and telephone numbers will be included. One other important feature that will be included, and has been much requested, is support in HPC Explorer for Microsoft Outlook. The current 1.0 version supports only Microsoft Schedule+, which is replaced in Microsoft Office 97 by Outlook.
Microsoft in February revised their version of PowerToys for Windows CE; the Mute and Cascade programs have been improved, and a new Remote Control program is included, on which more later. Mute now supports toggling off and on of all sounds. Cascade appears to be much faster on screen, which is the result of deferring display of icons until the full submenu box and text has been displayed on screen.
New Cascade program and tray icon
Also in February was announced the first Service Pack for Windows CE, for the Casio Cassiopeia and Compaq models only. Other HPCs are not affected. This contains a replacement keybddr.dll to fix a problem that can fully discharge the batteries and lose data from your HPC. The patch is installed in the keyboard driver for convenience, not because there is anything wrong with keyboard management. There are situations where the HPC is turned off, but systems in the HPC don't go to low power suspect mode as they should. The result is an HPC that appears to be turned off, but is still eating power at full rate. As the system is theoretically turned off, the idle timer power off can't take effect, and batteries will be fully drained in a short time (such as over night). if this happens, all user data will be lost from the machine.
At the time of the launch of the Psion S3c last year, Psion received a lot of criticism from existing users for making the backlight option available only to US purchasers of the new model. It appears that Psion weren't happy with the quality and price for UK users of the original backlight, and have quietly released a backlit model for UK distribution. The complaint remains that existing users can't move their investment in expensive cables and peripherals on to the new Psion S3c and Siena models. The new connectors are much more compact (and presumably cheaper to manufacture), and so should be compatible with the rumoured forthcoming Psion S4.
There are also rumours of a new line of Pilots from US Robotics. If these rumours are to be believed, the new models will be available (in the USA, of course) in the second quarter of 1997. They will be slightly bigger than the current model, with 1Mb RAM as standard and a 2Mb option, and a Timex Indiglo style backlight (the Indiglo technology is my personal favourite backlight, as used in the Newton MP130). There should be two models; a basic Pilot Personal for $299 with updated applications and the bigger RAM, and a Pilot Professional for $399 with email, a TCP/IP stack and network support for HotSync. Both versions may include a money management application. The new software should be available to current Pilot 1000 and 500 users in the form of a RAM upgrade card.
Topics covered this month:
Next month there will be more on new applications for Windows CE and Pilot, including mobileIRC, and a look at how to synchronise various PDAs with a Windows 95 desktop system.
Contacts mentioned in this month's column:
Windows CE Downloads (PowerToys): http://www.microsoft.com/windowsce/hpc/software/default.htm
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