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The History of Microsoft Windows CE - Windows CE 3.0

Windows CE 3 heralded a substantial change in direction for the Windows Mobile device development teams. Microsoft took the decision with the release of Windows CE 3. To create Embedded Operating System devices that would directly compete with the well long and established Palm OS based PDA's. This decision would see a ground up redevelopment of the User Interface of Windows CE Palm-Sized PC devices, which were now to be called Pocket PC's.

The new UI took the much marketed 'Familiarity' out of the Windows CE range. The Taskbar and Start Menu were removed, replaced with similar, but less obvious components, and moved to a permanent home along the top of the display. The Familiar Windows UI was removed, instead opting for a flatter, more easily defined GUI.
Microsoft also invested new functionality from the power of their new Windows CE Cedar (CE3) core. New communication features and application layer support were added to extend the functionality of the old Palm-Sized PC's. The changes finally saw the delivery of Pocket Office onto the QVGA form factor
The primary goal for the new release was to move the appeal of Microsoft's portable device offerings beyond the general PDA user, and into new fields such as knowledge workers and mobile workers.

Windows CE 3.0 - Pocket PC 2000

Microsoft Pocket PC (Pocket PC 2000 as it later became known) was released to the public in April 2000, and was the first platform release made against the new Windows CE 3.0 core which itself would not be released to developers for nearly two months. The Pocket PC program ran under the development code name Rapier, a type of sword

Windows CE 3.0 - Handheld PC 2000

While Microsoft were revolutionising their work on the Handheld PC's younger sister. The H/PC itself didn't quite undergo such a renaissance. The new Platform Builder provided the functionality of the Windows CE 3 Core, as well as incorporating the various new technologies that had emerged during and since the CE 2.11 Platform Builder had been released. Components such as Media Player, Terminal Server Client (RDP Client) appeared in the standard Clamshell device build options. However the remaining updates were far from as illustrious as that of the Pocket PC.Handheld PC 2000 Graphic
The Handheld PC 2000, or HPC2000 as it came to be known, was well received by loyal HPC users, and by the companies who found the Clamshell and Sub-Notebook form factors of benefit. However HPC2000 had failed to address many of the key issues that the End User had with the applications that were onboard.
Aside from Pocket Internet Explorer, all the Platform Applications (Pocket Office, Terminal Server, Media Player etc.) were identical to those found in the H/PC 3.0 Professional release of 1998. The release attempted to rebrand the applications into line with the Office 2000 scheme, however the fact that it was nothing more than a patched build quickly shone through.
Despite this, the Windows CE 3.0 core accelerated the Handheld PC to a new level of performance, opening up markets for new, high end and more demanding applications. The performance gains tied in with the new Microsoft strategy, which saw the H/PC as a tool for data management within companies and not as a consumer device.

A clear shift in Microsoft's development policy of Windows CE was starting to emerge. OEM's producing the Handheld PC were starting to dwindle. Microsoft central marketing almost exclusively Pocket PC 2000 orientated, and internal development inside Microsoft Mobile for applications and enhancements began to trail off by mid 2001.

Windows CE 4 currently provides no light at the end of the tunnel for the Handheld PC Operating System, at least as far as Microsoft is concerned. While developers can build a H/PC platform on the device (See HPC:Factor HPC.net visual review). The key functionality that makes a Handheld PC a Personal Information Manager (PIM) and give it its distinctiveness (Pocket Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access) are missing.
This is a Windows CE 4 wide omission. It is important to reminder that Windows CE development within Microsoft is not the same as Mobile Device development. They are two separate departments. It is the Mobile Devices Handheld PC division that will be charged with creating the Office applications for Handheld PC 5, if there ever is to be a 5th Generation Clamshell.

By the beginning of 2002 there was no longer any department, or individual charged with work on the Handheld PC in any Microsoft subsidiary, anywhere in the world.

Much can change in 7 years.

Windows CE 3.0 - Pocket PC 2002

Windows CE 3.0 Release History

  • CE 3.0 Core (Cedar, 15th June 2000; Successor to CE 2.12)
  • CE 3.0 Platform Builder (Chainsaw)
  • CE 3.0 Pocket PC 2000 (Rapier, 19th April 2000; Pocket PC release)
  • CE 3.0 Handheld PC 2000 (Galileo, 7th September 2000; H/PC release)
  • CE 3.0 Core Add-on Pack (25th September 2000; Core technologies update)
  • CE 3.0 CE for Automotive 3.0 (October 16th 2000; Successor to AutoPC 2.0)
  • CE 3.0 Pocket PC 2002 (Merlin, 4th October 2001, Pocket PC release)
  • CE 3.0 Pocket PC 2002 (Merlin, 6th December 2001, Chinese Pocket PC release)
  • CE 3.0 CE for Automotive 3.5 (December 5th 2001; Automotive Release)
  • CE 3.0 Smartphone 2002 (Stinger, 2002, Smartphone release)


Continuing from the Windows CE 2 era the Windows CE 3.0 Core codenames all relate to types of tree. Conversely, all Platform construction tools used codenames of tools used to cut down trees. Windows CE 3.0 was the final version of the operating system to use this naming schema.

HPC2000's codename comes from renaissance scientist and artist Gallileo Galilei, who is credited with turning the eyes of mankind towards the stars, and discovering, amongst many other significant events, that the planet Jupiter (H/PC Professional) had celestial objects orbiting around it, brining an end to the concept that the Earth was the centre of the universe.
The Pocket PC and Smartphone release codenames come from the names of US military weapons projects.


The Windows CE 3 generation of Host Synchronisation software; ActiveSync was developed under two code names. ActiveSync 3.0 (15th September 1999) and 3.1 were codename Xena ActiveSync 3.5, 3.6, 3.7, 3.7.1 and 3.8 were developed under the codename Medusa. For more on the lineage of ActiveSync 3.x click here.

Handheld PC 2000 Screenshots | Handheld PC Device List


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