Magazine article Black Enterprise

The Littlest Personal Computer: Windows CE Pushes the Envelope for Handheld PCs

Magazine article Black Enterprise

The Littlest Personal Computer: Windows CE Pushes the Envelope for Handheld PCs

Article excerpt

Personal computer users who have contemplated buying the tiniest of all computers--a handheld PC (HPC)--now have the green light. Microsoft's release last fall of a new operating system for handheld computers should put the small PCs on the fast track, especially for the mobile computer user.

HPCs, which alternately have been called personal digital assistants, palmtops and PC companions, are the grown up offspring of handy, low-cost electronic organizers, used mostly to keep schedules and organize data. The new operating system, called Windows CE, is a mini-version of Microsoft's Windows operating system designed to extend the desktop. NPCs allow users to keep their most important business and personal data in their vest pockets or purses when they are away from their desks, as well as transfer and synchronize data between the home and office.

Windows CE includes so-called pocket versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel for functions such as data retrieval, spell checking, word processing and spreadsheets. It includes a communicatlons feature for accessing the Internet for and e-mail through Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Because of the lack of a unified operating system, the market for handheld computing devices had been languishing until Microsoft's announcement of Windows CE last year.

HPC users no longer have to worry about being hemmed in by proprietary operating systems and limited software applications that characterize many personal digital assistants like Sharp's Zaurus or U.S. Robotics' Pilot. Seven key computer manufacturers--including Casio, Compaq Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi America and Philips Electronics--quickly jumped in and said they would build products for the operating system.

But don't expect a HPC to replace a laptop or desktop computer. The reason is size and power. Most handheld devices weigh less than 15 ounces, have four-inch screens, small 63-key keyboards and hold two to four megabytes of memory. The cost ranges from $500-$700, depending on features such as extra memory. Contrast the handheld with the power of a desktop computer with 16 megabytes of memory, a 14-inch monitor and a full keyboard, and there's no contest.

While a handheld user can transfer from the desktop an important document, quarterly sales figures or quickly send an e-mail, fax or find something on the Web, the device is much too small and lacks the power for full-blown presentations or complex financial analyses. …

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