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Samsung NEXiO S160
NEC MobilePro 900
HP Jornada 720 & 728 (discontinued)

NEC MobilePro 790 (discontinued)


Windows CE HPCs: Windows CE .NET handhelds, Handheld PCs and Handheld PC 2000

(otherwise known as the ones with keyboards)

Philips Velo

Handheld PCs based On Windows CE 3.0

Handheld PCs (HPCs) were the first Microsoft Windows CE devices on the market, preceding Pocket PCs by several years. These units featured integrated keyboards and clamshell designs that resembled miniature notebook computers. They were somewhat popular, but being more expensive, larger and more complex than early Palm brand PDAs, they didn't become overwhelmingly popular. The operating system resembled a slimmed down version of version of Windows 95, featuring the familiar Start Menu, Settings (control panels) and My Computer and My Documents folder on the desktop. These units generally had CF slots, 56k internal modems, half-VGA 640 x 240 displays and a PCMCIA slot. They were powered by MIPS, SH3 and later ARM processors (running from 66 to 206 MHz) and had either 32 or 64 megs of RAM. The earliest versions ran WinCE 1.0, and by the time several models were on the market they were running Windows CE 2.11 Professional. The latest models from HP and NEC ran Handheld PC 2000 which is based on the Windows CE 3.0 core operating system as were all Pocket PCs until the Windows Mobile 2003 (Pocket PC 2003) PDAs came out in the summer of 2003.

The PDA camp divided into the palm form factor (Palm brand PDAs and Pocket PCs) and the handheld factor: HPCs. HPCs co-existed with palm sized PDAs from 1997 until today. In the HPC's heyday, there were 7 brands to choose from, and in 2002 only two (the discontinued HP Jornada 720 and NEC MobilePro 790). Today, only the NEC MobilePro 900 running HPC 2000 survives from this family of devices.

What's Windows CE .NET 4?

Windows CE .Net 4.0 came out in late 2002 as the successor to the Windows CE 3.0 based family of HPC devices. You may have read about Microsoft's .NET initiative which covers desktop and server operating systems, PDAs, Smartphones and embedded devices. It's their "next big thing", and allows programs to port code from one platform to another relatively easily. If you'd like to learn more about .NET, visit Microsoft's site. Pocket PC 2003 PDAs running Windows Mobile 2003 run Windows CE .NET 4.2 as their core OS, and the most recent keyboarded devices run CE .NET 4.x. Examples of these are the Samsung NEXiO S160, Sigmarion III and the BSQUARE "Maui" Power Handheld. The CE .NET operating system is much more capable, modern and functional than the Windows CE 3.0 operating system.

These .NET devices are quite new and haven't made their way to the US market yet. The NEXiO was supposed to be sold in the US, but Samsung changed their mind at the last minute and instead sold in only in Hong Kong (though you can get it from the importer Dynamism). The Sigmarion is sold only in Japan and has a cellular radio that only works in Japan. The BSQUARE unit will be sold in Europe when it's released, and may be resold by others who use its reference design. These devices have an operating system that strongly resembles Windows XP, are generally faster than Pocket PCs, have 400 MHz XScale processors, CF slots, 800 x 480 displays and 64 or more megs of memory. They often offer built-in wireless in the form of WiFi or cellular radios. These units really are notebook replacements for everyday business travelers.

Windows CE .NET devices show a great deal of promise, and recent clamshell design keyboarded units from Sony and Sharp have shown there is demand for this form factor. I hope that these devices begin to proliferate in the US, and that prices come down since they're still expensive.

What benefits do these devices offer compared to subnotebooks?

Handheld PC Strong points:

1) They have no moving parts so are safely transportable with less care required.
2) They are are instant-on, so you don't have to wait for them to boot up.
3) They are much lighter and smaller than notebook PCs and can offer better battery life.
4) The OS is permanently installed in ROM, so no worries about trashing Windows and having to re-install via CD when on the road.

Subnotebook strong points:

1) They runs full blown Windows so you can use your favorite PC programs on it-- if you have advanced needs such as development, database work, web page building and remote network administration this can be especially important.
2) Depending on the model, you can upgrade the RAM and hard drive as you see fit, while handhelds can't be upgraded other than by using CF or SD memory cards.
3) More drivers are available for networking cards on Windows PCs.




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