Windows CE HPCs: Windows CE .NET handhelds,
Handheld PCs and Handheld PC 2000
(otherwise known as the ones with keyboards)
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.