Questions/comments on “Windows CE x Windows Mobile” – Part 1

My post on Windows CE x Windows Mobile differences generated a lot of interesting comments, more than I had anticipated :-). Thanks to all of you who have posted your comments/questions to the blog, private messages, as well as all discussing on web forums. I thought a new post would be the best option to go through all that, so here we go answering some of them, I intend to touch all questions on next posts.

So what exactly is the difference?

For some reason I thought I had touched that point, but based on the feedback I received it is still not clear to many of you the differences between Windows CE and Windows Mobile. So let’s make sure everybody is on the same page re Windows CE:

Windows CE combines a real-time, embedded operating system with the powerful tools for rapidly creating the next generation of smart, connected, and small-footprint devices. With a complete operating system feature set and comprehensive development tools, Windows CE contains the features developers need to build, debug, and deploy customized Windows CE–based devices.

These devices can have any form-factor, any type of display or no display at all, any proprietary/customized shell; it can be extensible allowing developers to create applications targeting it, or a completely closed solution (like robot-controller).

Assuming we are all fine with this definition, let’s move on to where Windows Mobile came from. A bit of history:

Built on its own code base from the ground up, this operating system [Windows CE] debuted in September 1996. Windows CE originally ran on the Handheld PC but now is used in devices of different shapes, sizes, and degrees of ruggedness, such as mobile handhelds, industrial controllers, gateways, and advanced consumer electronics.

I sounds like WinCE was born to fulfill the need of an OS for the new handheld PC category of devices MS was looking after. I was not at MS at that time, so take this with a grain of salt: my guess is that MS realized it could launch Windows CE, as a product by itself, to partners & hardware providers. At that point the development was forked and WinCE started being developed in a group and, another group (like a device division) began using WinCE to create customized versions of the OS targeting specific form-factors, user interfaces and customer experiences.

One of the points of confusion is that MS used to call “Windows Mobile” (these customized versions of the OS) different names along the history: Handheld PC, Palm-size PC, Microsoft Pocket PC, Microsoft Smartphone and finally… Windows Mobile!

Windows CE was a strong brand on these “customized versions of the OS” until Pocket PC 2000, and started losing power after that (hence the source of confusion). Windows Mobile is now the brand we use to name these “customized versions of the OS”, targeting a PDA-like form-factor and/or a Smartphone-like form-factor.

Wikipedia has this nice image showing Windows CE timeline and the associated PDA/Smartphone OS.

Thus, the difference is: Windows CE is an OS (a real time OS) for embedded devices. Windows Mobile is an incarnation of Windows CE, with pre-built/standard shell, applications, user interface, APIs and user experience in general.


Where does Windows Automotive and Windows Mobile for Automotive fit into all of this?

Pretty much the same approach as described above. Windows CE continues to be the baseline OS, while Windows Automotive is a pre-defined version of this OS specialized for in-car computing scenarios. On February of this year, we announced “Windows Mobile for Automotive”, the new member of the Windows Mobile family. See press release here:


The Industry’s First Standardized Platform

Microsoft® Windows Mobile for Automotive provides the industry with an open, standardized platform for in-car infotainment system development. Automakers developing in-car infotainment systems using the platform can tailor functionality for specific models or desired price points. For example, a navigation system in an economy car might only provide voice prompts and a heads-up display, while a luxury model may offer a full-color LCD display featuring maps and real-time traffic information. As a result, Windows Mobile for Automotive helps the industry achieve the following:

  • **
  • Fast time to market. Manufacturers can move quickly to market with a standards-based, ready-to-install electronics gateway that gives consumers hands-free digital access to cell phones, music and information in their cars.
  • Low development costs. Windows Mobile for Automotive frees OEMs from the need to develop proprietary software — with its associated high development costs. This entry-level solution is based on a familiar Microsoft programming model and supports industry standards for reliability, power consumption and temperature variations.
  • Flexible implementation. Available in two versions, Windows Mobile for Automotive can easily be tailored to meet automakers’ needs across a variety of models, vehicle types and price points. Because the software is upgradeable, support for new devices, applications and industry standards can be added to increase functionality for drivers and passengers over the life of the car. Software upgrades can be easily deployed by the dealer via the wireless connection or USB port.


Where can we find the Portuguese original post?

You can find it here.


Tags: [Windows Mobile] [Windows CE] [Windows Mobile for Automotive]