REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 4, 2001 — It’s practically a mantra at Microsoft: Build a great platform, then support innovation by giving partners the means to develop applications that meet the needs of the market. Pocket PC 2002, which launches today, is no exception to the rule.
More than 3,800 partners have signed up as members of Microsoft’s Mobile Solution Partner Program. These include independent software and hardware vendors (ISVs and IHVs) and systems integrators — all developing applications and technologies for Pocket PC 2002.
“We made the bet with the Pocket PC that our customers would want a rich, multifunctional device, and the industry has validated our vision of what a handheld should be in the marketplace, so more and more developers are seeing business opportunities,” says Chris Hill, Pocket PC product manager at Microsoft. “They see the rising volume of Pocket PCs sold — over 2 million units to date — then they look at the platform and see that they can do a lot more with it than competing platforms. For example, a consumer-oriented ISV such as a game developer will look at the Pocket PC’s fast chips, great screens and built-in action keys, as well as its rich color support and built-in multimedia capabilities, and they think ‘Wow, I can build a great game on this platform.'”
Similarly, in the enterprise space, solution developers are looking at the robustness and security features of Pocket PC 2002 for connecting mobile workers to their essential business data. Not only does the platform allow developers to work with familiar Win32 APIs, saving development time, but they can also choose from a number of integrated technologies, such as a virtual private network (VPN) or terminal services clients, to securely connect to a corporate network. Applications like SQL Server CE, Pocket Internet Explorer and File Explorer can be used to connect Pocket PCs to internal databases, corporate intranets and file shares.
The new Pocket PC handheld devices, which will be manufactured by 22 hardware partners, sport a new interface, new features to benefit consumers, business users and corporations, and more ways for users to communicate with friends and co-workers.
Application Development and Demand Surge for Pocket PC Platform
As a result of the increasing consumer and corporate demand for Pocket PCs, the selection of third-party applications — from travel resources and entertainment to personal productivity tools and point solutions — has increased dramatically. Handango Inc., the largest distributor of wireless and handheld software, has seen its Pocket PC products grow 90 percent, quarter on quarter, since the fourth quarter of 2000. And recent Gartner Group reports have shown Compaq Computer Corp., with its iPAQ line of Pocket PCs, as challenging Palm Inc. and Handspring, both in terms of revenues and units sold.
“When we first launched Pocket PC in April 2000, we had 80 partners in the program. A year ago we had 800, and today we have 3,800,” Hill says. “Over the past six to nine months we’ve seen huge growth — truly exponential. And as you’d expect, we’ve also seen a wave of applications becoming available as the number of partners has increased.”
To encourage application development for the Pocket PC platform, Microsoft supports mobile solution partners through co-marketing activities, press opportunities, access to marketing collateral and, on the technical side, early access to beta software, technical support programs and resources.
The Pocket PC is already supported by an industry-leading tool set that offers optimized versions of Microsoft’s popular programming systems: Microsoft Visual Basic and Visual C++. With the release of Pocket PC 2002, the tool set and the software development kit (SDK) have been enhanced to include a number of new APIs, which allow developers to create applications and take advantage of many new features. Also new with this release of the SDK is a new Pocket PC 2002 emulator, which allows developers to test their application code on their PC without having to test it on a mobile device. The new emulator represents a huge win for the developer community — allowing more of the Pocket PC’s capabilities to be tested on the PC, speeding and improving development cycles and costs.
Vindigo Launches Pocket PC Version of Personal Navigation Tool
Applications that made their debut on the Palm platform are increasingly available for the Pocket PC. Today, Vindigo Inc. announced that it is launching its popular personal navigation application for Pocket PC 2002. With Vindigo, users can input their location anywhere in a given city to find the closest restaurants, shops, banks, bars, movies and more, complete with descriptions and directions. With each synchronization of the Pocket PC, Vindigo downloads the latest movie times and content updates.
“Our vision was that one of the most popular applications for mobile devices would be one that can work out where you are and tell you what is going on in the world around you,” says Jason Devitt, CEO of Vindigo. “We believed that this idea would resonate with a lot of people, and indeed it has. We’re now heading for 750,000 registered users of the application on the Palm platform, and we expect to see many, many more on Pocket PC.”
People familiar with the Palm version of Vindigo are in for a surprise once they see the Pocket PC version. Vindigo for Pocket PC 2002 is in full color, and takes advantage of the larger screen real estate on Pocket PCs. In particular, maps are in full color, larger and much more detailed. Over time, Vindigo will offer a broader range of content and services over Pocket PC. One reason is that the Pocket PC version will be a premium product, not an advertising-supported product as it is on Palm.
Regarding the strengths of the SDK and the platform, Vindigo developers note the ability to embed a full-featured browser control inside the application, which greatly simplifies Vindigo’s UI implementation. They also praise the Microsoft technical support team for helping them resolve complex issues surrounding the implementation of their ActiveSync service provider.
“We’ve been delighted with the level of support and assistance we’ve gotten from our partners at Microsoft,” Devitt says. “In addition to lots of practical developer support, we’ve been introduced to OEMs and other potential partners, and received marketing support surrounding the launch of the service itself. It’s clear to us that the Pocket PC platform has made tremendous progress in the past year or so, and now presents a compelling value proposition for consumers and business users alike.”
ZIOSoft Brings Array of Games to Pocket PC Platform
No stranger to the Pocket PC Platform, ZIOSoft Inc. has seen demand for its Pocket PC games swell to the point that they now outsell ZIOSoft’s Palm titles, two to one. ZIOSoft also has one of the most popular games for Pocket PC — ZIOGolf 2 — which takes full advantage of the multimedia capabilities of Pocket PC.
“When I first came to ZIOSoft, they handed me a Palm IIIc, and I used it for about three weeks before I was introduced to a Pocket PC,” says Eric Young, director of marketing for North America at ZIOSoft. “To this day, my Palm IIIc gathers dust. The screen real estate, the speed, the clarity of the screen, the quality of the games — they are premium on the Pocket PC compared with a Palm.”
Today ZIOSoft is announcing SimCity 2000 for Pocket PC, a mobile version of the popular PC game in which players manage cities, watch them grow and change as a result of their decisions and external factors.
“SimCity 2000 is different because it allows you to sit down and play in small increments of time — to put 15 minutes into it while you’re waiting for your plane or appointment,” Young says. “It’s exactly what you need for this market. You just can’t pick up and put down the more involved games that way. This is the first version of the SimCity series that has ever been released for Pocket PC, and I can attest that the Pocket PC version is much better than the version for Palm.”
According to Young, ZIOSoft was pleased that they didn’t have to redevelop or patch any of their games for Pocket PC 2000. Existing games are all fully compatible with the new platform. The next technology push for ZIOSoft will be to take advantage of the new multiplayer connectivity options available in Pocket PC 2002, as the company expects mobile gaming to expand dramatically in the handheld device category.
“We’re not far away from a huge market shift in this category,” Young says. “With increasing wireless connectivity options, it won’t be long before we have two or more people racing, golfing or vying for world domination in real time, all on their Pocket PCs.”
PeopleSoft to Develop Mobile Agent for Pocket PC, for Enterprise Connectivity in the Field
Consumers aren’t the only ones who are taking advantage of new applications for their Pocket PC 2002 devices. As mobile connectivity expands across corporations, professionals will turn to mobile devices as frequently as they now use their laptops to conduct business outside of the office.
“The real business value for mobile enterprise applications is accelerating the speed of business communication — integrating processes that are currently not supported by enterprise applications,” says Chris van Loben Sels, product strategy director for Mobile People Tools at PeopleSoft. “And the key to that is to easily and rapidly share information between the enterprise and the mobile device. So Microsoft’s commitment to enriching the wireless and Internet functionality for Pocket PC 2002 — these are the types of features that open up the possibilities for our customers when you have that kind of rich functionality already in the device.”
Early in 2002, PeopleSoft will release its Mobile Agent for Pocket PC 2002. This technology, which will first be available for PeopleSoft’s CRM applications, gives mobile professionals constant access to their CRM data even when they don’t have network connectivity. This is particularly valuable for business travelers who want to use it on planes or to quickly get information wherever and whenever they need it, regardless of network coverage. Once the Mobile Agent is available, PeopleSoft will extend the technology to its other enterprise solutions, ultimately offering mobile productivity tools to complement all PeopleSoft applications.
“Pure Internet architecture is the new standard for both mobile and conventional applications. So our design goal is to be able to install, maintain, upgrade, configure, synchronize and secure mobile applications — all over the Internet,” van Loben Sels says. “And Pocket PC 2002 makes that very easy to do. We’re reaching that goal more aggressively than our competitors, which is why we are bringing out the first pure-Internet approach to disconnected mobile applications. One of the key aspects of bringing a pure-Internet approach to mobile applications is being able to rely on the rich services that are embedded in Pocket PC 2002.”