REDMOND, Wash., February 1, 1999 — Imagine being able to put your computer in your pocket and take it wherever you go-literally. Already, thousands of people are doing just that. They read and respond to e-mail, update their weekly schedules, listen to books on tape, record their thoughts, play computer games and view content from the Internet-all with a device that fits into the palm of their hand.
Soon they’ll be able to do it all in color.
Microsoft this week announced it has shipped a new version of its Windows CE operating system to hardware companies that manufacture Palm-size PCs (P/PCs). The release will make P/PCs the first palm-size devices on the market to include color screens. The first of these color-enabled devices are expected in stores during the first half of this year.
“This release is really about enabling a better viewing experience for our customers,” said Phil Holden, Microsoft’s group product manager for Windows CE.
Announced a year ago, the Palm-size PC is a pocket-sized computing device that allows users to keep their essential work and personal data with them at all times. “Pocket Outlook” enables users to track appointments, access addresses and telephone numbers, and send and receive e-mail, including e-mail attachments. The “Voice Recorder” and “Note Taker” features can be used to record one’s thoughts when away from the desk by writing them down or by capturing dictations. And the “Mobile Channels” can be used to view information offline from the World Wide Web.
The smallest computing device powered by Windows CE, the Palm-size PC weighs just a few ounces, fits easily into a jacket pocket or purse, and is operated using a stylus rather than a keyboard. One of its most significant features is its ability to automatically synchronize information with a person’s desktop and laptop computers. Users can automatically synchronize the data they create and edit on one computer with their home or office computer, ensuring they are always working from the most up-to-date information.
“What we’re trying to do is make it easy to move the information from that pocket device to your PC,” Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates explained during last May’s Microsoft CEO Summit. “Your schedule, your contacts, your mail messages-all of that is easily available. And whenever you go near to your PC, without giving any commands, that information synchronizes, so it’s always uniform and consistent.”
Palm-size PCs have rapidly gained popularity since their introduction just over a year ago. The worldwide market for personal companion devices is expected to jump from 1.2 million devices sold in 1997 to 4.1 million units this year, according to an October 1998 report by International Data Corporation. “This spike in growth is attributed to the extraordinarily strong success of Palm III in 1998 and future launches of several vendors with Windows CE Palm-size PCs,” the IDC report said.
By adding support for color screens, Microsoft’s latest version of Windows CE for the Palm-size PC brings unmatched clarity to device screens, making it easier to read information on Palm-size PCs, Holden said. Microsoft released the latest version, formerly code-named Wyvern, in response to requests from customers, who said they wanted the added clarity a color screen provides.
As uses for the Palm-size PC have grown, so has the need for color screens, Holden said. “What we’ve started to see happen is people relying on their Palm-size PC not only for their personal business information, such as their e-mail, their to-do lists and their calendar, but also for Internet content they can get automatically downloaded from their desktops,” he said. “And because Internet content can be fairly rich, the ability to see it in color is very important to people.”
Microsoft’s new version of Windows CE has attracted many new hardware manufacturers to the Palm-size PC, many of which plan to introduce new devices that support both color and gray-scale screens during the first half of 1999. Four new hardware vendors announced they will support the latest release of Windows CE for the Palm-size PC: Auctor Corporation, Compaq Computer Corporation, Hewlett Packard Co. and Trogon Computer Corporation. They join vendors like Casio Computer Company, Ltd.,,, Everex Systems Inc., Philips Electronic North America Corp. and Uniden, which have already entered this market.
“Compaq is pleased to support Microsoft Windows CE for Palm-size PCs as an integral part of our aggressive 1999 mobile companion strategy,” said J. Tempesta, Vice President and General Manager in the Enhancements and Monitors Division of Compaq Computer Corporation. “We view these ultra mobile clients as ‘must have’ extensions to your network and PC. Our goal is to become a leader in hand-held products by incorporating innovative features that make them well-suited for business and professional users.”
“Through Trogon’s extensive market research, we have found that color displays are one of the main reasons why a person would upgrade their existing organizer or personal digital assistant,” said Gregory Huh, Director of Marketing for Trogon Computer Corporation. “We also believe color displays will revolutionize the Palm-size PC market. As one of the fastest growing mobile computer manufacturers in the United States, we see the importance of keeping current with the latest in Windows CE technological developments and are therefore excited about the release of Wyvern.”
The entry of several new hardware manufacturers into the Palm-size PC market is good news for consumers, according to Holden, because it provides them with greater choice. “What we’re starting to see is a model very similar to the PC, where you have a bunch of hardware manufacturers building solutions and differentiating themselves by offering different options,” he said. “So for the consumer, it’s great because it’s not the Henry Ford ‘one size fits all’ model. You can pick and choose the right solution for you.”
The new release is also spurring software developers to create innovative software applications for the Palm-size PC. Already, companies are capitalizing on the audio capabilities of the Palm-size PC to enable it to play radio programs and books on tape downloadable from the Web. And the advent of color is expected to make it a more attractive medium for games and other sophisticated color-enhanced applications.
Currently, more than 400 independent software vendors (ISVs) are developing applications for these devices, and that number is expected to rise dramatically over the next few years. “What you’re starting to see is a really interesting selection of applications that really take advantage of the core differentiators of this platform,” Holden said. “This kind of functionality is just not available on any other platform.”
Ellen Craw, general manager at Ilium Software in Ann Arbor, Mich., agreed that this latest version of Windows CE will lead to more innovation. “We at Ilium Software are very excited about the latest release of Windows CE for the Palm-size PC,” said Craw, whose company develops several applications for the Palm-size PC. “Color is the next evolutionary step for the Palm-size PC platform, and it opens the way for greater developer innovation in software design. The combination of Windows CE, the Palm-size device and color will be unbeatable in the PDA [personal digital assistant] market today.”
As with the previous release of Windows CE for the Palm-size PC, Microsoft will make the new version available in several languages, including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese. In addition, the company for the first time will provide the software in both Chinese and Japanese, paving the way for the introduction of the Palm-size PC into those markets. “That’s unique,” Holden explained. “This is the first time the Palm-size PC will be available in both the Chinese and Japanese markets.”
So when should a person use a Palm-size PC as opposed to a Handheld PC? The answer, according to Holden, depends on where a person is and what information they need to have with them. The Handheld PC, which comes with a keyboard and business productivity applications like Pocket Word, Pocket Excel and Pocket PowerPoint, is ideal for accomplishing work at business meetings and on the airplane, for example. And the Palm-size PC is a great device for people who want to carry their personal business information with them or are traveling to places where a laptop PC would be obtrusive, such as a restaurant or a sporting event. Holden said many businesses are deciding to purchase both the Handheld PC and the Palm-size PC, as each device is optimally used in different settings and at different times of the day, and information from one device can be easily synchronized with the other.
Like the Handheld PC, the Palm-size PC is intended to provide people access to the information they need at all times. The goal, Holden said, is to help people work more efficiently so they can maximize their free time. “Imagine yourself on a train or in a plane, and you’ve got a certain amount of spare time,” Holden said. “It’s really easy to read e-mail on these devices, to go through your to-do list, or to enter the business cards you received on your business. What the Palm-size PC enables you to do is be very productive while you’re mobile, so you have more personal time when you arrive back home.”