REDMOND, Wash., October 9, 1998 — Microsoft this week announced that the third generation of software for Handheld PCs, known as Microsoft Windows CE Handheld PC Professional Edition, has been shipped to 12 computer manufacturers. Handheld PCs that use this new software are expected in stores later this year.
First introduced in 1996, Handheld PCs (H/PCs) represent a new category of computers for the mobile worker. They are lightweight, streamlined, specific-use computing devices designed to extend users’ Windows-based desktops or notebooks. With the H/PC, users can keep the most vital information on hand and then synchronize it with their Windows-based desktop or laptop computer, so the information is always up-to-date. H/PCs are powered by the Windows CE operating system, created by Microsoft to serve as the basis for a wide range of computing devices. H/PCs are easy to learn, according to Microsoft, because the Windows CE user interface incorporates many elements of the familiar Windows operating system.
“Windows CE for the Handheld PC provides the familiarity of Windows, so if you know Windows you can immediately use an H/PC,” said Roger Gulrajani, group product manager for Windows CE. “It doesn’t require any additional training.”
The H/PC Pro software, the third generation software for the H/PC, expands the power of the Handheld PC by providing core operating system improvements and making computer tasks even more efficient, Gulrajani said. It makes it easier to access and connect to corporate data back in the workplace. And it enables hardware manufactures to build new devices that offer bigger computer screens, larger keyboards and support for additional input options such as a mouse or touch screen.
Microsoft developed H/PC Pro software in response to the requests of customers, who said they wanted a Handheld PC with more software and hardware capabilities. Gulrajani said. The software synchronizes information faster than previous versions of Windows CE, ensuring that users have the latest information on both their Handheld PC and their desktop PC or laptop. And it comes with improvements to several applications provided with previous versions of Windows CE, including Pocket Outlook, Pocket Access, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel and Pocket PowerPoint.
“Our goal was to make the H/PC Pro a great specific-use mobile communications tool by improving several features such as remote e-mail, access to the Internet and the way it synchronizes information with users’ desktop computers and laptops,” Gulrajani said.
Like the mini-notebook, H/PC Pro-based devices will be smaller than full-size laptops, yet larger than a more traditional pocket-size Handheld PC. This similarity may prompt users to ask, “When should I use my laptop and when would I use a H/PC Pro-based device?”
The answer, according to Microsoft, depends on a user’s computing needs while on the go.
People who need to accomplish specific tasks while on the road, such as maintaining personal information, sending and receiving e-mail, surfing the Web and accessing Microsoft Office data, may prefer to bring an H/PC Pro-based device, Gulrajani said.
On the other hand, users who need the full PC capacity provided by Windows 98 and Windows NT while away from the office may prefer to bring their laptop, Gulrajani said. Laptops allow users to access the entire set of features in Microsoft Office and other desktop applications while on the road, run thousands of third-party applications and use a wide array of available laptop peripherals.
“It really comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish while on the road,” Gulrajani said. “If you need things like PowerPoint editing or if you want full desktop functionality, then you’d probably want to look at a mini-computer. But if you just want e-mail access and Web access, and you want to optimize for a really long battery life and a lightweight package, then a larger form factor Handheld PC may be the way to go.”
In launching its new Windows CE software, Microsoft announced more than 40 software and hardware vendors have announced support for the operating system. The first H/PC Pro-based devices will be available in stores later this year, with widespread availability expected in 1999.
The market for Handheld PCs is expected to grow significantly during the next few years. Gulrajani said he expects H/PC Pro-based devices to contribute to this growth by expanding the choices available to customers.
“We see this as a natural extension of this product category, and we think this new class of Handheld PCs with larger screens and keyboards will expand the marketplace for Handheld PCs,” Gulrajani said. “What it really comes down to is now there’s more choice. Users have more options, and can choose the right solution depending on what they want to accomplish.”