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.

Acer PocketPC

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, and 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 format compatibility with the desktop versions of the company's productivity software. Mobile versions of Microsoft software, such as Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, and Pocket 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 items 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% of the market. 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 2000, based on Micrsoft's Windows CE 3.0 platform, was a first step towards the familiar appearance and functionality that is offered by Windows Mobile 5.0. Devices running PocketPC 2000 ranged from the Askey PC010, which had a 16-color grayscale screen with no expansion slots, to the Casio EM-500, which had a 64k color screen and provisions for upgraded pheripherals such as cameras. PocketPC 2000 launched with versions of Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, and Microsoft Reader bundled. ActiveSync 3.1, which provided an easier way to install applications onto the PocketPC, was required to synchronize with host desktop machines.

PocketPC 2002

Codenamed "Merlin," PocketPC 2002 was Microsoft's Windows CE 3.0-based upgrade to PocketPC 200. PocketPC 2002 offered many improvements over the previous operating system, including a Terminal Service Client, a new mail Inbox, Windows Media Player 8.0, improved versions of Pocket Word and MS Reader, and many other features.

There were three service packs (EUUU1/2/3) released which addressed bugs and other issues in the original release.

Windows Mobile 2003 & 2003 Second Edition

Windows Mobile 2003, codenamed "Ozone", was officially released in June of 2003. The operating system is based on Microsoft's Windows CE 4.2, which claimed to provide a more responsive system when compared with devices running Windows CE 3.0. This version of the operating system added many useful features, including a picture viewer, built-in Bluetooth and WiFi support, Windows Media Player 9.0, as well as a host of Personal Information Management application improvements. This version of Windows Mobile required ActiveSync 3.7 to communicate with a host computer.

Windows Mobile Second Edition, released in 2004, added support for 640x480 VGA resolution, portrait and landscape display modes, DPI settings, and many other improvements.

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:

  • Acer
  • Asus
  • Audiovox
  • Dell
  • HP
  • Mitac
  • Motorola
  • Samsung
  • Siemens
  • Symbol
  • Treo

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