Microsoft PocketPC

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A PocketPC is commonly referred to as a handheld computer that runs a version of Microsoft’s proprietary mobile operating systems.

Microsoft PocketPC, sometimes referred to as P/PC or PPC, is based upon the Windows CE framework. Variants of this operating system include versions such as PocketPC 2000, PocketPC 2002, "Windows Mobile 2003/2003 SE, Windows Mobile 5.0. Variants also exist for SmartPhones, such as Windows Mobile 2003 Smartphone edition.

One of the key benefits of Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform is file compatibility with the desktop versions of the company's productivity software. Mobile versions of Microsoft software, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, allow individuals to view and edit these files outside of the home and office.

Another benefit is integration with Microsoft's cross-platform solution, the .NET Framework. The .NET Framework and its associated class libraries handle things such as memory management, file I/O, and many other functions. The .NET Framework allows programmers to develop code in one of several .NET languages, such as C# and VB.NET. PocketPCs run a simplified version of the framework called the .NET Compact Framework.

In order to maintain synchronization and connectivity with desktop computers, Microsft developed the ActiveSync program. The user merely has to connect the PocketPC to the desktop computer in order to synchronize things such as appointments, contact lists, and even multimedia files.

In 2001, PDAs running Palm OS variants held a market share of about 72%, while PocketPC held a meager 15%. However, by the fourth quarter of 2004, Microsoft PocketPC and Palm OS were practically tied with regards to market share -- PocketPC-based devices had a market share of 40.2% while Palm OS claimed 40.7% of the market. This upward trend clearly illustrates the growing popularity of PocketPC-based devices, and thus the increased likelihood that one will encounter such a device in the field.


The PocketPC operating system began as Windows CE in November of 1996. The NEC MobilePro 200 and the Casio A-10 were the first two PDA-type devices available with this early version of the operating system. From here, Windows CE continued in development through versions 2 (with such devices as the MD Elan SC400, DEC SA1100, Hitachi SuperH 3, NEC VR4101, Philips DR 31500, and the Toshiba TX3912).

PocketPC Variants

As previously noted, there exist many variants of the PocketPC operating system. Below are a summary of each.

PocketPC 2000

PocketPC 2002

Pocket PC 2002, Microsoft's PDA operating system, is more stable than the previous version and offers a barrel of bundled software, including MSN Messenger and a remote access client. However in order to run this operating system, serious hardware requirements must be available. Flash ROM is one of the requirements which only comes standard on the Compaq Ipaq.

Windows Mobile 2003/SE

Based on the Windows CE.Net operating system, Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC includes a Windows-like graphical user interface (GUI), tools and helper apps, and several companion applications, including Pocket Word and Pocket Excel. It's the third major release of the platform, which debuted in April 2000 and was last updated in October 2001

Here's a list of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC's new features:

-- Enhanced Connection Manager user interface

-- Zero Configuration connections

-- Improved animated connectivity status icons

-- Improved connectivity bubbles

-- Always-on Bluetooth discoverability

-- Use of Bluetooth modems

-- Bluetooth beaming

-- Auto-correct spelling

-- Auto-suggest in Inbox

-- One-touch turn all radios off

-- 802.1x support

-- Certificate Management UI

-- IPSec/L2TP

-- Support for Multiple VPNs

-- IPv6 support

-- New Today screen

-- Smart Lookup in Contacts

-- Windows CE 4.2 operating systems

-- .NET Compact Framework

-- Enhanced developer support

-- 128-bit encryption strength for Crypto API

-- Improved power management

-- Windows Media Player 9 Series for Pocket PC 2003

-- Plus! Sync & Go

-- Support for Plus! Photo Story

-- Windows Movie Maker 2

-- Pictures

-- New version of Pocket Internet Explorer

-- "Jawbreaker" game

-- vCard and vCal support

-- Inbox signature support

-- New user notifications

Windows Mobile 5.0

Windows Mobile 5.0, based off of Windows CE 5.0, was released on May 10, 2005. Windows Mobile 5.0 brought many changes to the PocketPC landscape. For one, with this release, the phone and PDA versions of the OS have merged into one encompassing OS, instead of two separate versions of the same one. Additionally, while past versions of PocketPC software utilized the RAM of a PDA for program and data storage, Windows Mobile 5.0 uses a PDA's hardware more like a traditional computer. The operating system and user data is stored in the more persistent ROM of the device, and RAM is used in a way more similar to that of a desktop PC. This has implications for forensics, as data stored on these devices is now less volatile.

Pocket PC Devices

In recent years, a number of manufacturers have elected to produce PocketPC devices. Some of these makers include companies such as:

  • Audiovox
  • Dell
  • HP
  • Mitac
  • Motorola
  • Samsung
  • Siemens
  • Symbol

Because different manufacturers are targeted at different segments of the market, such as business and consumers, the features and functionality of these devices sometimes differ greatly. For example, some devices have built-in capability for taking images and videos, while other devices have tools such as biometric fingerprint readers and barcode scanners.


The History of Microsoft Windows CE

Palm vs. Pocket PC-The Great Debate

Gartner: Windows CE ties Palm