Win CE 2.0 aims global, adds colour

Microsoft is redoubling its efforts to make Windows CE a hit on the world's handheld computers by releasing version 2.0 of the operating system, the first time the product has been available in international flavours.

Windows CE 2.0 will ship in French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, as well as English, and targets an audience Microsoft pins at 120 million global mobile professionals.

Jim Floyd, product manager for handheld personal computers (HPCs) at Microsoft, said there are already eight shipping Windows CE OEMs and 250 commercial applications available.

Key features of version 2.0 include support for colour screens, more connectivity options (including Ethernet support), ActiveSync automatic synchronisation, printing, support for e-mail attachments, scalable TrueType fonts, cascading menus, file-level password protection, zoomed views and customisable taskbar and toolbars.

In terms of applications, Pocket PowerPoint is added, allowing presentations to be authored and/or played back on HPCs. Slides played back on HPCs can also be viewed on external colour screens of up to 800 x 600 resolution. Pocket Word gets spellchecking; Pocket Excel gets customisable views with split-screen and freeze pane features.

Although Microsoft claims that it has much improved memory requirements and that 2.0 will run on 2Mb units, it said it expects many vendors to offer 16Mb RAM configurations. Battery life also remains a weak point. Microsoft's Floyd said he could get about a day's typical usage out of his colour HPC but cautioned that that figure was based on late beta code.

Among vendors showing models at a London event today, Hewlett-Packard (HP) garnered most attention with its 620LX, a prototype VGA colour screen unit it expects to ship in December or January for about £750 + VAT. Although the design looks very rich on features, the 620LX weighs about 500g, is about the size of a pencil case and has a battery life of less than four hours when used continuously.

HP will also offer from November the 360LX, a mono screen device that is slightly smaller and will come in at about £550 + VAT. Shaun Hobbs, handheld products manager at HP, said that by breaking out some of the OS technology, low-price and even pocketable CE 2.0 devices will be available next year.

Casio and Lucky Goldstar also showed Windows CE devices.

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