June 19, 2019

A Look Back at Windows Mobile



Windows, from 1.0 to 10, have gone through serious changes over the past 30 years. I have never used Windows 1.0, but went from DOS 3.x directly to Windows 3.1. The most memorable thing in my own experience has been Windows CE, the embedded version of Windows. With the release of Windows 10, the CE name would probably be replaced by Windows for IoT (haven’t checked, so not 100% sure). Here I want to talk about some interesting changes happened about 10-15 years ago.

At the beginning of the century, PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) arose to popularity. The most commonly available is the one made by Palm. In the mean time, Windows CE branched into two new flavors: Pocket PC and Smartphone. This is probably the earliest use of the word “Smartphone”. The most notable vendor of both flavors is HP. They are called the iPAQ, please check the above picture. The Pocket PC one worked like a computer, the Smartphone one can make calls.

As we know now the Packet PC of the time was more like today’s small tablets, but smaller. The Smartphone is the origin of the today’s smartphones. I know Blackberry appeared during the same time, but Blackberries weren’t called smartphones. Palm PDAs didn’t make calls until later.

At the time, both Pocket PC and Smartphone was under Windows CE 4. Then there were Windows Mobile 5, 6, and 6.5. Then it comes Windows Phone 7, and 7.5. Windows Phone 8 replaced CE kernel with NT kernel. So essentially, starting from version 8, Windows Phone is no longer Windows CE. I am not sure if the Windows CE SKUs will be totally replaced by Windows 10. From the information we have, it looks like it. I will get to that in the next post.

That’s a very brief look back of what happened to Windows Mobile, in broad term.

I worked as a contractor in 2003 to develop a Pocket PC application (Visual C++ for Embedded). I still have the developer kit, shown in the following video, without small programs like apps, that’s still some amazing technology.


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