The History of Windows CE:
However none of the manufacturers for CE 2 devices made use of the 486 and 82x support for the device, opting commonly for the MIPS and SH3 processor.
With the progression into CE 2 their came a whole new core programming method and a newer, larger driver database, expanding the H/PC's functionality with the advances in mobile device technology. These features came about, largely because of lessons learned from CE 1. The first CE 2.00 based Handheld PC's began shipping on the 13th October 1997.
Windows CE 2 was also able to handle larger amounts of data, with broader storage
media support, and an increase in the Object Store size to 4MB. This allowed
for more complex, specifically tailored applications to be created which could
take advantage of the more robust and featured hardware required to do it.
A major addition to the Handheld PC were colour screens for both half and full VGA devices. The colour displays were able at this stage to support 24 bit colour, however the introduction of colour display adapters went hand in hand with depleted battery performance. Network support was included in the built-in driver database with the 2.10 release, while limited to a small number of PCMCIA Ethernet cards running on NE2000 chipsets, this paved the way for third party hardware manufacturers to improve the formula, allowing synchronisation and application installation across a network.
Windows CE 2.0 was the first H/PC version to support True Type Font display. True Type became the font standard in Windows CE 2.0 and in all subsequent versions. The change to True Type in 2.00 was an effort to improve screen clarity over 1.0x devices which had suffered from having to make use of larger font sizes in order to be legible. With the release of 2.0 the system font became Tahoma at 9pt size allowing for much clearer screen definition of text and making better use of the available space. A secondary advantage of the shift to True Type is the ability to allow for text zooming within applications, adding an extra layer of accessibility to the Handheld PC platform.
Windows CE 2.0 was refreshed with an interim update which provided Support for the Japanese language and input method. The 2.0 refresh was similar to the 1.01 refresh, unlike with CE 1, did not result in a change to the version numbering.
Windows CE 2.01 itself formed the basis for the first keyboardless "in
the palm of your hand" device. Running off of the Windows CE 2.01 core
operating system. The Palm PC was without many of the peripheral applications
like Microsoft Pocket Office and Internet Explorer which were now an established
norm on their H/PC counterparts - for which Microsoft were strongly criticised
by technology pundits and their userbase. It was the lack of native productivity
and communication tools, combined with an impression that Microsoft were unwilling
to refresh the interface of the Palm-Sized PC which inevitably lead to it being
a short lived release.
Developers were also heavily critical of the release, citing the inability to write applications using Visual Basic - a mainstay on the H/PC from the beginning. Smaller, on-demand developers were turned away from writing applications as knowledge of C++, (MFC or the Windows CE API) was required. Developers were further restricted by the lack of support for ActiveX controls, which once again were prevalent on Handheld PC 2.0
The Palm PC was in almost an ironic repeat of the public interpretation of Windows CE 1 for Handheld PC users, it took three attempts for Microsoft to find the correct formula for its QVGA sized, Palm OS rival. The result was the Pocket PC.
The Palm-Sized PC's history was unsteady from the outset. When it was originally
launched it was simply named the Palm PC. However 3Com, the parent company behind
the long established Pilot, Palm Pilot and Palm PDA's successfully challenged
Microsoft on the grounds of trademark infringement, and, in an announcement
on April 8th 1998 Microsoft backed down.
Within the following months all international references to the Microsoft "Palm PC" would be changed to "Palm-size PCs". To this day Group Leaders (MVP's) on Microsoft public newsgroups will still make a point of correcting you should you happen to miss the '-sized' portion of the name.
Windows CE 2.1 added some significant upgrades to the CE 2 package. These updates included:
- TCP/IP enhancements
- FAT32 Support
- Modular File system wrapper, capable of supporting up to 256 different file systems
- The Object Store maximum size was increased from 4MB to 16MB
- Software Input Panel (SIP) capabilities built into the OS
- The first Platform Builder release, all shell licensing controls were removed, but no example shell was provided
- Command Line Processor
- Fast Infrared Port (FIR) Hardware Support
- Universal Serial Bus Controller Support (USB)
- Larger File Handling Abilities
- Placement of Databases on External Storage Mediums
Thought Windows CE 2.10 was never used as part of a formal Platform release - remaining just a core release. Early versions of the Handheld PC Professional beta were based around the Windows CE 2.10 core. This was subsequently updated to 2.11 once Microsoft finalised the updated components and began to introduce consumer devices into the market.
Based around the Handheld PC Professional subset, the Palm-Size PC 1.1 release
was aimed specifically at the untapped Asian market. The release was designed
to provide the Handheld PC experience in a QVGA subset, in conjunction with
enhancements designed to cater for the specific cultural needs of the orient.
Devices such as the LEO Freestyle range offered support for Visual Basic development,
printing, faxing and in a first for the QVGA form factor. Pocket Internet Explorer
was bundled into the Operating system.
Palm-Size PC 1.1 supported colour, built-in networking support and most of the H/PC Pro OS subset. The Chinese input method editor (IME) supported character recognition for Pinyin Romanisation and ChangJie, along with Chinese application ports - including Pocket Outlook and Windows CE Services.
It would be over a year before the benefits of Windows CE 2.11 would arrive on a Western device. The Palm-sized PC release, Wyvern was effectively nothing more than an interim platform update, bringing the small form factor device up to the Windows CE 2.11 core. The main feature billed for the third Palm-Sized PC release was the introduction of colour onto the Western QVGA - keyboard-less form factor (though the 1998 Chinese Palm-Size PC release supported colour). Despite the updated core, the Pocket Office applications and Pocket Internet Explorer were still absent from the package, much to the frustration of existing users. Wyvern also introduced Windows CE Services 2.2 as the native sync client and included the broader platform and peripheral connectivity benefits offered by Windows CE 2.1.
The Handheld PC incarnation of Windows CE 2.11 became know as Handheld PC Professional. Amongst many enhancements and new features in the release were the inclusion of Microsoft Pocket Access, and the ability to open Microsoft Word and Excel files without needing to convert them to their mobile counterparts.
This release also enabled a significant hardware to change. Devices
that resembled sub-notebooks were introduced onto the market. The
only H/PC which used the CE 2.11 operating system without migrating
to the sub-notebook specification at the time of launch was the
hp Jornada 600 series.
Microsoft allowed its OEM's to decide whether to offer an upgrade path from Windows CE 2.0 to the new H/PC Professional. Those that did, offered upgrades under the Microsoft project codename 'Callisto'. The Callisto project saw physical ROM chip replacement (as was still the norm) to upgrade the Operating System from H/PC 2.0 (CE 2.0) to the 3.0 version of the Handheld PC software running under the CE 2.11 core.
The final outing for Windows CE 2 was with an interim platform builder update,
taking the core CE version up to Windows CE 2.12. No large volume consumer devices
were ever released with Windows CE 2.12 onboard. OEM's decided that providing
interim updates to existing customers wasn't necessary, mainly due to Windows
CE 2.12, by its nature, being an Operating System Core release rather than a
Handheld PC Platform release.
As a result of this, most OEM's did not see 2.12 as a worthwhile update and thus chose to wait for the release of the Windows CE 3 core before continuing with their device development. Of the few CE 2.12 devices which ever made it to market, most are thin-client workstations and not PDAs.
Despite the relatively insignificant uptake of Windows CE 2.12, the release was significant. Version 2.12 built strongly on the modularisation of the Windows CE base operating system. The new Platform Builder became a readily accessible commercial product, allowing for uptake of Windows CE not seen before. Along with security, stability and library improvements came significant shell level enhancements. For the first time, Microsoft included a readily available example shell, aesthetically similar to that of H/PC Pro which unlike in previous releases no longer required special licensing terms beyond that of Platform Builder.
A second web browser option for its Platform Builder OEM developers was included
in addition to the Pocket IE release of the 2.11 core (complete with bug fixes).
A new, larger footprint and vastly more capable version of Microsoft Internet
Explorer was included. Based on the Internet Explorer 4.01 SP2 code from the
desktop release sphere, the Windows CE version increased the functionality of
the CE platform for thin-client manufacturers. With a desktop standard web-browser
Windows CE could be targeted at a newer niche market, looking for low cost,
fast turn around devices. Designed to remove the support and stability issues
associated with running mainstream Windows Operating Systems, devices such as
web terminals, kiosks and richer, more diverse interactive point of sale terminals
could be created based on the compact CE framework.
Each successive Windows CE core release since 2.12 has followed with improvements matching those found in the Internet Explorer release road map. Taking CE itself out of the exclusive realm of the PDA forever.
CE 2 as an entity was released in an OEM format only, and had many minor re-releases there after.
All Windows CE Core releases between CE 2.0 and 3.0 used codenames relating
to types of tree. Conversely, all Platform construction tools used codenames
of tools used to cut down trees.
Following the theme from Windows CE 1.0 of giving development project cosmic and mythological significance, both the Handheld PC and Palm-Size PC continue this trend. The Handheld PC releases are names for planets in our Solar System, and the Palm-Size PC release take their name from mythological creatures.
The original Host Synchronisation software for Windows CE 2.0, Windows CE Services 2.x was later surpassed by ActiveSync 3.0 which would provide native synchronisation services for the final batches of the 2.x generation devices. ActiveSync predominantly remained in the realm of Windows CE 3.0, as part of the fourth generation Handheld PC device while the often buggy and unreliable Windows CE Services - developed under the codename Minerva - remains, for better or worse associated with CE 2. For more on the lineage of Windows CE Services 2.x click here.
Microsoft stopped their Windows CE 2 development when the decision
was made to update Microsoft's Mobile Device product line, with
a new bold universal operating system. Sporting new functionality
on the device, and broader hardware support which would better make
use of the increasing levels of new mobile hardware technology,
as well as meet the needs of the on-demand consumer by making better
use of recent strides made in CPU and battery performance.
As Microsoft virtually unnoticed shipped the Platform Builder release for Windows CE 2.12, development on the next generation of Handheld PC operating system was well under way, along with the prototypes for the successor to the Palm-size PC.
Giving birth to Windows CE 3 in April of the year 2000, the Pocket PC was born.
Stormy waters ahead