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The History of Microsoft Windows CE - Windows CE 4.x

The future for the Handheld PC may seem uncertain. It is however, only uncertain from the point of view of Microsoft development aspirations for being the dominant player in the PDA market.

Windows CE 4.0 Net

Windows CE 4.0 devices first appeared in March 2002, finally making it onto high volume consumer devices with the June 2003 release of Windows Mobile 2003 (Pocket PC 2003).

Windows CE has proved itself a robust, multifunction, multi-device platform and an asset to Microsoft. For this it is certain that Windows CE is here to stay.
Microsoft have raced through development on the CE 4 core, incrementing two minor versions of the Platform Builder Windows CE Net 4.1 and 4.2 respectively) in 12 months.
Further development is on the horizon with the Windows CE team working on the future of the Embedded Operating System, in the form of Macallan, CE 5.0.

Unfortunately what looked good on paper for the Handheld PC with Windows CE 4 has, to the largest extent, failed to come through for the platform. Especially for the Clamshell market.
While some inroads have been made at bringing about something of a renaissance for Sub-Notebook class Handheld PCs, there was only one true Clamshell with any promise for reviving the fortunes of the community. The NEC MobilePro 900. With this the hopes that the device would be noticed were rested, but for mismanagement, an aversion towards marketing and an inflated price on March 31st 2005 NEC threw in the towel, discontinuing the last of the great HVGA devices, and bringing one of Microsoft's most influential journeys, spanning seven years to a quite and almost unobserved end.

The crux of the matter is that Windows CE 4.x devices are shipping with ROM images designed for development and corporate level tasks. The software shipping on the devices is not designed with the consumer or for ergonomic use as a PC companion.
This is where changes to the Windows Mobile 2003 licensing could aid the Clamshell and indeed ever the Sub-Note.
At this time the idea of running Windows Mobile on a Handheld, is something of a divisive issue within the community. We hope that we will be given the opportunity to continue the discussion.

As for the thousands of loyal users of the much loved Handheld PC Platform, and Clamshell device types. The H/PC will only die if we let it. Patience, time and experience shows that developers will rise to the challenge if prompted in the right direction. There are many keen and dedicated users out there who are willing to take the time to campaign for the Handheld PC.

Windows CE 4.net GraphicWhile there are such people out there, there will always be an OEM which sees an opportunity to develop the Clamshell in its own little way. Despite the fact that there has been little back-end change to the platform. The H/PC is evolving, slowly. Productivity is being addressed by the adventurous developer. New technologies that take the IT world by storm invariably have trickled down into the H/PC universe. Allowing the users to discover something new about the platform. Allow it to take them somewhere where they couldn't go before.

The Pocket PC devices are not for everyone, if more people could be shown the benefits of the platform it would once again earn its place in the developmental bench at Microsoft. Its easy to forget that the Handheld PC is as much a part of the Pocket PC, as OS/2 is part of Windows NT*.
The grandfather of the CE world still has much to teach, and many, many years left to do it.

Windows Mobile 2003

Windows Mobile 2003 SE

Windows CE 4.x Release History

  • CE 4.0 Net Core (Talisker, January 7th 2002)
  • CE 4.1 Net Core (Jameson, June 2002)
  • CE 4.2 Net Core (McKendric, April 23rd 2003)
  • CE 4.2 Windows Automotive Net (March 26th 2003; Successor to CE for Automotive 3.5)
  • CE 4.2 Windows Mobile 2003 (Ozone, 23rd June 2003, Pocket PC release)
  • CE 4.2 Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition (24th March 2004, Pocket PC release)

Windows CE 4.1 Screenshots | Windows CE 4.2 Screenshots | Handheld PC Device List


* For anyone unfamiliar with the development of Windows NT. The NT project came about because of Microsoft working with IBM & others on OS/2. Microsoft withdrew from the NT project after discovering the merits and its ability to code a new Operating System from the ground up. Windows NT is the back bone of NT 3.1, NT 3.5, NT 3.51, NT 4, Windows 2000 (NT 5), Windows XP (NT 5.1), Windows Server 2003 (NT 5.2) and the future Windows 2005 (NT 6 aka Longhorn).
It is commonly mistaken that NT stands for New Technology. This was a Marketing creation from Microsoft. NT originally stood for N-Ten, after the Processor platform that NT was originally coded for. (Factual Source: Win Supersite)


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