Pocket PC: Redefining the Rules for Mobile Computing

NEW YORK, Apr. 19, 2000 — Just a few years ago, the best way for any of us to organize and manage our lives was with a paper day planner. Electronic PDAs changed all that, enabling us to keep the calendar and contacts on our computers in sync with the planners we carried in our pockets. But our requirements for
“keeping in touch”
continued to change. We now rely on e-mail, the Internet and office information to stay in touch. We want — and expect — to do more.

Today, Microsoft and industry partners took that ability to stay in sync to new levels by introducing the Pocket PC — devices that will transform the way people manage personal information and office activities while they’re on the go.

Pocket PCs are small, powerful devices that not only store calendar and contact information, but also come equipped with applications that lets you take their important work with you — with specially developed

“With the Pocket PC, we’re breaking out of the confines of today’s electronic organizers,”
says Brian Shafer, Microsoft’s Marketing Manager for Mobile Devices.
“Other devices are good for things like contacts and calendars, but if you want to access the Web, or listen to music, or get some real work done, they run out of steam pretty quickly. As people use these other devices, they wish they could do more — and that’s where Pocket PC comes in.”

Microsoft has worked with a wide range of hardware and software partners to ensure that the Pocket PC is the most versatile and useful device of its kind. The specifications for the Pocket PCs being officially released today sound more like desktop computers than handheld devices — 32MB of RAM, 133MHz processors, 16-bit color screens displaying more than 65,000 colors. The result: a fast and powerful device small enough to stow in a coat pocket.

“The Pocket PC is a great organizer, of course,”
Shafer says.
“But if you want a machine that can really do more than just keep your contacts, then this is the device for you. Whether it’s checking email while on the road, editing files you’ve received as attached documents, or accessing online information on the Web or through your company’s intranet, the Pocket PC extends the desktop experience in a way that most people never thought possible with a handheld device.”

Opportunities for Developers

To deliver both great power and small size, a number of important technical advances have been folded into the Pocket PC. The innovations start with a new version of the Pocket PC software, which offers a simplified user interface along with greatly enhanced speed and reliability. In addition, Pocket PCs are built with industry-standard expansion slots that provide unmatched extendibility, allowing consumers to pop in CompactFlash memory cards containing as much as 300 megabytes of storage, or add a modem, printer, digital camera, and other hardware devices.

The combination of new functionality and improvements to existing technologies makes the Pocket PC an attractive development platform, and a number of great software applications are already available for the device, with more and more being released all the time.

One company that is focusing much of its development efforts on the Pocket PC is Tonked Incorporated, of Dundee, Michigan.
“The Pocket PC really surprised me,”
says Tonked President Larry Roof.
“From storage to networking to standardization, it’s an incredible platform for development. Tonked was started by a group out of research and development at General Motors, and we are used to working with the latest and greatest technology — that’s what attracted us to the Pocket PC.”

According to Roof, the Pocket PC will make the handheld device an indispensable tool for business. He believes that corporate users have shied away from adopting Palm-type devices because they have mostly been viewed as overblown address books. By offering true mobile computing in a handheld device, Roof notes, the Pocket PC will become standard issue for business users who spend a lot of time away from their desks.

Roof expects that an application under development by his company in partnership with NextGen Realtor.com will quickly make the Pocket PC a critical tool for real-estate agents. Called Agent, it will allow agents to carry comprehensive data — including full-color photographs — for as many as 15,000 listings. By taking advantage of the expansion slot to add a modem or a printer, agents will be able to receive notices of up-to-the-minute listings in real time or edit and print contracts and other documents while sitting in their cars.

“Nobody is doing anything like this right now and we think it could be huge,”
Roof says.
“There’s just no way you could do this with a Palm Pilot.”

Florida-based Conduits Technologies is another software development company that is focused on the opportunities provided by the Pocket PC market. Among the applications Conduits has created for the Pocket PC are PeaceMaker, which allows users to beam electronic business cards between handheld devices such as a Pocket PC and a Palm Pilot. Conduits’ Pocket Artist lets graphic designers and photographers edit and manipulate images onscreen in much the same way the PhotoShop does on a desktop machine.

“You’ve got a larger screen with a much better display, a huge memory footprint, stereo sound–suddenly, you can write much richer applications than you could for previous handheld devices,”
says Conduits President Jason Patterson.
“That makes it a very compelling platform to develop to.”

Not all of the software that Patterson’s company is creating for the Pocket PC is designed for use in the office. Currently in the works: Pocket Billiards.
“It’s a bit of a diversion from our normal work,”
Patterson says,
“but the Pocket PC also has great new tools to help developers with performance enhancements for games, so we couldn’t resist.”

Changing the Rules

While companies like Tonked and Conduits have been focused on software, hardware makers like Casio, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Symbol have dedicated their efforts to rolling all of the technologies, features, and applications into streamlined, durable packages that are as elegant as they are practical.

“Our hardware partners have done amazing things with these new Pocket PCs,”
says Microsoft’s Shafer.
“Devices are thinner, lighter, cooler and even more creative in style.”

HPs pair of freshly minted Pocket PCs are a good example. The Jornada 545 and Jornada 548 come in a sleek metal alloy casing. The devices are barely 5 inches long, 3 inches wide, and about the thickness of a deck of cards, each one weighs in at a mere 9 ounces.

Squeezed into that tiny frame is a robust bundle of software. In addition to Pocket versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Word, Excel, the Microsoft Reader, and other Microsoft products, they feature a financial calculator, Conduits’ PeaceMaker, Ethernet drivers, special security features, imaging software, music samples, a very lifelike 3-D golf game, and more.

“We’ve created a great product for professional people who need to access information when they’re not at their desks,”
says Elaine Gasser, North American marketing manager for HP Jornada Products.
“But it really flows over into your personal life too. You’ll use it to keep track of meetings at work and doctor’s appointments for your kids. Plus there’s a lot of fun things you can do with it in terms of playing the music you like, bringing pictures wherever you go, or reading eBooks while you are traveling.”

Casio is also poised to release its own elegant versions of the Pocket PC. In addition, the company is moving forward with a strategic initiative to incorporate the Pocket PC into the automobile. Called Automotive Telematics, it combines Microsoft’s new handheld device with wireless Internet and global positioning technology, allowing drivers to use the Pocket PC to access the Web from their cars. The device will also tap into the onboard diagnostic computers in a car and provide consumers with access to the same information mechanics use to assess how their vehicle is running.

“The great thing is that it’s the exact same Pocket PC as the Cassiopeia that you’ll be able to buy in the store,”
says Gary Schultz, director of Casio’s Mobile Information Products Division.
“Automotive Telematics is just one example of the way that Pocket PC is taking handheld computing to an entirely new level.”

Microsoft’s Shafer believes that innovations like Automotive Telematics are further proof that, with the release of the Pocket PC, handheld computing is never going to be the same again.
“We are totally changing the rules,”
he says.
“With full Web surfing, Word and Excel attachments, eBooks, and more, plus the flexibility and economy of scale that we’ve achieved by sticking to industry standards, and the work that our partners are doing to extend the Pocket PC into other areas, I think that after today, what people expect from their PDA is going to rise dramatically.”

Related Posts