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Mobile CoDe.NET: Microsoft Mobility 101 : Page 3

Does Microsoft have a real development solution for handheld devices or will other vendors continue to grab the spotlight? Here in the first installment of Mobile CoDe.NET, we'll describe the OS choices and software development tools and we'll lay out the yellow brick road that you can follow to start building your own mobile solutions.


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Pocket PC 2002
The term "Pocket PC" is like a Q-Tip or a Kleenex in that the name of a company's specific product became the mainstream name for the product category itself. Granted, a Pocket PC sounds a bit more generic, but what is often implied is that a Pocket PC is a PDA running the Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 platform. Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 is not an OS in itself but rather a specification based on the Windows CE 3.0 OS with additional shell extensions. Because of the modular nature of Windows CE, most pre-version 3.0 devices on the market ended-up running a whole slew of variant configurations of the OS. The end result made it very difficult for software makers and ISVs to support all these devices since they never knew if some component or another would be present. Microsoft decided to pick a standard set of Windows CE components themselves and publish them with a set of hardware guidelines as part of a specification. Many such specifications were released such as the Palm-sized PC or the H/PC Pro, but the most popular by far is the Pocket PC.

Think of Microsoft Smartphone devices as digital Internet phones with PDA-features whereas a Pocket PC Phone Edition device is a PDA with digital Internet phone features.
The Pocket PC specification is now in its second release, preceded by the original Pocket PC specification, now known as the Pocket PC 2000 specification, to differentiate it from newer inceptions. The primary competitor of the Pocket PC is of course the Palm OS®, which is the mobile operating system running on devices like the PalmPilot™, the Handspring™ Treo or Sony's Clié™. There are several times more Palm OS devices on the market today than there are Pocket PCs since Palm devices are cheaper. The main reason behind this takes root in the very light nature of the Palm OS, which can fit in only a few megabytes, in contrast to the Pocket PC 2002, which can require from 16 to 24 megabytes of ROM. Windows CE—and therefore Pocket PC—is much bigger than the Palm OS because it provides many more system services to developers. Consumers may prefer Palm devices because of their lower price tags, but as a developer you'll be much happier in the Windows camp thanks to the many rich development services that are open to you. In any case, the lack of advanced services in the Palm OS is taking its toll on Palm and other competitors, and they are losing ground since more and more businesses are discovering the justification for the higher costs of devices powered by Windows when building mobile business solutions. The following list gives you an idea of the hardware requirements for the Pocket PC 2002 specification:
  • Support Intel Strong-ARM processor family.
  • 240x320 one quarter VGA tactile LCD display.
  • At least 32 MB of RAM and 16 MB of Flash ROM for the operating system itself.
  • No built-in keyboard. Support for a software keyboard is built-in the shell extensions.
  • An Infrared port (IrDA).
  • A port for USB synchronization with a PC.
  • At least one expansion slot (Compact Flash, Secure Digital, PC card).
With such rigid requirements comes compatibility across devices, but also a lack of distinction between them. Some OEMs have managed to differentiate their devices from the pack with key features like the iPaq's support for expansion sleeves or the Toshiba e740's two built-in slots and wireless support. Other manufacturers are creating more specialized devices based on the same Pocket PC specification, such as industrial devices or "ruggedized" devices. The well-known consumer and corporate devices may be well suited for office workers, managers, and sales personnel, but if you hand an iPaq to a mechanic or field surveyor, the device probably won't last very long. And even if your non-corporate user tried to be careful, what happens if it rains, oil spills on the device, or the environment is very dusty? This is why many companies, led primarily by Symbol Technologies (www.symbol.com) and Intermec (www.intermec.com), have been providing the market with specialized mobile devices for all kinds of harsh usage or environments.

OEMs that currently offer Pocket PC devices include Acer, Audiovox, Dell, Fujitsu/Siemens, HP, Intermec, NEC, Symbol Technologies, Toshiba, Viewsonic, and others. Microsoft recently announced at its Mobility Developer Conference 2003 in New Orleans the next generation of Pocket PCs. Code-named "Ozone," the new Pocket PC 2003 specification leverages Windows CE .NET 4.2 and will support many flavors, including an entry level Pocket PC and a keyboarded version. I don't want to dig too deep into uncertain and variable directions, so I'll focus on existing technologies for now. Don't worry; I plan to keep you up-to-date regarding future developments in the Windows CE world in upcoming issues of CoDe Magazine.



Handheld PC 2000
Microsoft introduced yet another specification called Handheld PC 2000 for small clamshell-style devices, or micro-notebooks if you prefer. Preceded by the H/PC Pro, these devices may have been the first form factor on which Windows CE saw the light of day in 1996 and 1997 but their popularity dwindled because of their higher price and bulk. Featuring a wider screen and an integrated keyboard, these devices can double as light-duty laptop replacements. With a bright 640x240 LCD color display, two PC card and Compact Flash slots and an integrated 56.6K modem, the most popular device in this category today is the Jornada 728. Other devices in this family include the Fujitsu PenCentra 200, the Intermec 6651 Pen Tablet (with a built-in camera), the NEC MobilePro 790 & 880, and a few others.

The lack of recent support for these devices, the increase in Pocket PC popularity, and the small number of Handheld PC 2000 devices have all contributed to a smaller future in this area. Unless Microsoft revamps the spec with Windows CE .NET 4.2, I suggest that you limit application projects for this form factor to niche and specialized scenario where there is no viable alternative. Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition
Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition is also a Windows CE specification, or more specifically, it is a variant of the Pocket PC 2002 spec for PDAs with built-in digital phone features and wireless connectivity to the Internet via carrier networks. Aside from the embedded wireless radio for GSM/GPRS access, these devices include a version of the OS prepackaged with a software phone dialer and additional tools and utilities related to telephony and wireless configuration.

T-Mobile was the first to introduce a Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition device in the US market. Other companies that either announced or released devices based on this spec include Audiovox, PC-EPhone, Siemens, and Toshiba. Microsoft says the Phone Edition will be upgraded to Windows CE .NET along with the Pocket PC 2003. No dates for any version or variant of the Pocket PC 2003 have been announced. Microsoft Smartphone 2002
Smartphones are the next generation of phone devices combining digital phone handset and wireless Internet connectivity with some PDA-style and mobile computer features. Eager to establish dominance in the world of mobility, Microsoft released another specification based on Windows CE 3.0 dubbed Microsoft Smartphone 2002. The term "Smartphone" isn't exclusive to Microsoft since other Smartphone operating systems exist, such as the Symbian OS.

eVC allows you to build mobile applications for any Windows CE-based device, and it is the only option available today for Microsoft Smartphone 2002 development.
Think of Microsoft Smartphone devices as digital Internet phones with PDA-features whereas a Pocket PC Phone Edition device is a PDA with digital Internet phone features. These Smartphones may not be as powerful as traditional Pocket PCs, but they certainly lead the pack in the field of Internet phones. Features built-in the spec include an 65,000 color display, a Pocket IE HTML browser that supports graphics, Pocket Outlook, MSN Messenger, Windows Media Player for MP3/WMA/WMV playback, an integrated voice recorder and microphone, a speakerphone, built-in GSM/GPRS wireless radio with configuration utilities, and much more. Currently, the Orange SPV is the only commercially available Microsoft Smartphone device, is sold in the UK through the carrier Orange and is manufactured by HTC. A Compal-manufactured device will soon be introduced in the US by Everlink Wireless. The manufacturers who have so far announced they would support Microsoft Smartphone 2002 include Compal, HTC, and Samsung.

Microsoft also announced a new specification will be introduced in the near future to upgrade the Microsoft Smartphone 2002 spec to Windows CE .NET 4.2. No dates have been released.



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