Q&A: Microsoft Previews Pocket PC Software At CES

LAS VEGAS, Jan. 6, 2000 — Microsoft today previewed some of the key software features for a range of new devices powered by Windows and gave the devices a new name: the Pocket PC. Previously known by its code name,
the Pocket PC puts the best of a PC into a small device, providing users with the freedom to better manage their work and life anywhere, any time.

During his keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gates demonstrated two compelling new applications that will ship with the Pocket PC: Microsoft Reader with ClearType display technology and Windows Media Player. In a conversation with PressPass, Phil Holden, group product manager for the Productivity Appliance Division, explains the Pocket PC and how it fits into the broader scope of Microsoft’s vision of providing users access to information any time, any place and on any device.

PressPass: What is the new Pocket PC software?

Phil Holden: The Pocket PC comes with the next generation of Windows software for a range of advanced personal digital assistants (PDAs), expanding the functionality and accessibility of the typical PDA that users know today. The Pocket PC will let customers connect with their most essential work and personal information, anywhere and at any time. Today we call this category of devices Windows CE-based Palm-size PCs. In addition to delivering exciting technology enhancements, we’re giving the category a new name with this next version to reflect how the category is evolving.

PressPass: When will the Pocket PCs be available to consumers?

Holden: Consumers will be able to purchase the new devices from a variety of hardware vendors including Compaq, Casio, Hewlett-Packard and Siemens in the first half of 2000. You will see more exciting details on these future products in the coming months.

PressPass: What are Microsoft’s goals with this release?

Holden: We’re seeing a change in our customers’ requirements for these small devices, and we are responding to their needs with this release. In the past, a PDA has acted as a replacement for a day planner. However, over the last year, we began to hear from our customers that they wanted to do more than what a simple PDA does. People are under increased pressure to be more efficient at work, and at the same time they’re becoming busier in their personal lives. They need more functionality in these smaller devices to keep up with their lives.

With the Pocket PC, we have designed the next generation software to be powerful enough to merge both customers’ business and personal requirements into a single device that’s small enough to fit into your pocket. Combined with new unique hardware designs that will appear from a number of hardware providers to be announced later in the year, the Pocket PC is designed for your life today and in the future.

Press Pass: How do you picture someone using a Pocket PC?

Holden: Imagine yourself in a taxi or a bus, or waiting for an appointment, or in line for a movie, and you’ve got 10 minutes free. In that short time you’re probably not going to bring out your laptop. But you could easily bring out your Pocket PC and make use of those few minutes by writing a message, editing some notes or checking your calendar. In addition to the core personal information management functionality, these latest Pocket PC devices will allow you to read business materials or manuals, or even listen to music while you are relaxing. The Pocket PC fits into a purse, briefcase or backpack, so it’s very accessible and can be carried with you easily. When people leave the house now, they typically grab their cell phone, keys and wallet. Soon, they’ll be grabbing their Pocket PC too.

PressPass: How will the Pocket PC be different from other devices on the market?

Microsoft Reader with ClearType technology — included in the next generation of Windows-powered Pocket PCs — vastly improves the online reading experience.

Holden: The Pocket PC will build on the accessibility and functionality of today’s Palm-size PCs. Like today’s devices, the Pocket PC is an incredibly versatile and expandable device to meet our customers’ growing needs. Pocket PCs will be built on powerful 32-bit microprocessors with plenty of core system memory. It comes with industry-standard expansion slots that customers can use to extend their storage or connectivity options. For example, users can take a CompactFlash memory card similar to a small floppy disk and insert it into the Pocket PC for over 300 additional megabytes of storage. In addition, this same expansion slot provides the ability to plug in a modem, a digital camera or any number of hardware devices, enabling customers to expand what the Pocket PC can do.

This week we’re previewing two brand new, unique applications that will ship with the Pocket PC — Microsoft Reader and Windows Media Player. There’s a growing move in the publishing industry to provide content electronically so people can read books on a range of devices. The Pocket PC will come with Microsoft Reader, which has built-in ClearType support and is the first product to ship with this software for electronic reading. The goal behind ClearType is to make the online reading experience comparable in quality to the experience a reader has when looking at a book printed on paper. Microsoft Reader also gives users the ability to hear spoken-word content with integrated Audible.com technology. Obviously, people will always want to read books, but sometimes you don’t have the right books with you. With Microsoft Reader, users will have access to hundreds of books, all on one device any place, at any time.

Also, at CES we’re also announcing that the new Microsoft Windows Media Player will be integrated into the Pocket PC. This is the first portable media player that plays both Windows Media format and MP3, so customers don’t have to worry about the format of the music. In addition, it automatically generates custom play lists using any of the music that’s been downloaded to the device. Many of the Pocket PCs will come with stereo output, so customers can plug in headphones and listen to music while simultaneously doing other things. Also, as a special offer to our existing Palm-size PC customers, Microsoft will in February make this Windows Media Player available for free download for existing devices.

Microsoft Reader with ClearType and Windows Media Player are terrific examples of how advanced software and powerful hardware, combined with bright color screens and stereo output, will make Pocket PCs great business and personal devices. As we get closer to launch, we will provide more details regarding additional features and functionality of the future Pocket PCs.

PressPass: Has the underlying operating system improved at all?

Holden: Yes. While the underlying operating system is still Windows CE, we’ve done lots of work to optimize and enhance the user experience so that it’s better than ever for this category of device. Microsoft is working with its hardware partners to produce a very integrated product, and we’ll have more to share about the operating system improvements as we get closer to launch. Stay tuned.

PressPass: How will the Pocket PC redefine the PDA category?

Holden: It’s really all about customers wanting to do more with their devices. Today, popular PDAs are simply personal information managers. They are essentially a replacement for personal organizers. The Pocket PC will have a wealth of functionality that will enable users to take the best of their PC with them wherever they go. It will help people make the most of their time by helping them manage their work and personal life. I carry mine with me all the time — when I travel and when I’m at home — and rely on it to keep me organized and in touch.

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