---------- ---------- PC Pro Realworld Computing: Paul Lynch - PDAs

More CE 2.0

Microsoft have officially announced Windows CE 2.0. The emphasis they place in the announcement is interesting, as it is very much focused on embedded systems usage, which is where you would find a version of CE running your car or flushing toilet. This isn't a comforting thought, with the present state of Windows CE.

As predicted earlier, this extends the range of supported processors to include the Intel 486 and Pentium. Colour display support, printing and LAN support are all included. This clearly means that new devices will be required to take full advantage of the new features. But think about if for a moment: printing support is fundamental to many peoples use of a system, and this, I feel, more indicates the fragile nature of CE 1.0 than many of the other deficiencies that have been already been pointed out.

The operating system itself is broken down into a number of optional modules, all of which can run in ROM, which makes it much more practical for use on systems with small amounts of RAM. As well as the Win32 API, it supports ActiveX, TAPI, HTML 3.2, Visual Basic, Java, and the MFC for C++ developers. To make it attractive to embedded systems developers, Windows CE 2.0 will include a limited form of real-time programming support. This is a considerable addition to the support available for developers in Windows CE 1.0.

Pocket Internet Explorer will be upgraded considerably to support frames, cookies, and subsets of ActiveX and Java. Other features of interest include international localisation support with Unicode, support for display of TrueType fonts, and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which may be used to provide browser support for https: secure web connections.

One additional application that will make it into Windows CE 2.0 is Pocket Power Point. Microsoft demonstrators have been using HPCs (handheld personal computers, Microsoft's generic term for Windows CE supporting hardware) connected to desktop machines through the CE Power Toys Remote Control application for demonstrations in the past. Now Pocket PowerPoint (an inapposite overloading of the PPP acronym, it might seem) will allow HPC based demonstrations directly, with VGA monitor support possible from new hardware models.

This upgrade makes the software on existing systems more usable, closing some of the obvious holes. It also makes the system much more attractive for developers. Embedded systems is an area that hasn't really been touched by PDA manufacturers, and yet is already a significant area of business for chip manufacturers like Motorola and ARM. Microsoft have been saying for several years that they want to enter this market, with talk of phones and washing machines controlled by Microsoft operating systems.

However good this sounds, remember that the reasons I found to dislike the Casio Cassiopeia are still all present in CE 2.0. Some other hardware designs might beat the problem of insufficient power to drive PCMCIA cards, but the feeble user interface is still there. The big thing that CE has going for itself is the support of a large number of faithful Microsoft developers, and that isn't going to change with just a small number of bad reviews.

See: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsce/windowsce20.htm

Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: October 7, 1997

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