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Windows CEntral
July 2000

Windows CE powers up

I am a great believer in fate. I know that whatever happens to me, happens for a reason. I once saw a Mazda Miata smashed by a 30-foot rock that had fallen off a truck from a freeway overpass. I am convinced that it was that person's fate to be under that rock at 5:57pm that evening, and none of the thousands of other people that drove under that underpass that day were ever in danger. In my short lifetime, I have been hit by automobiles (yes, that's plural), and survived a bungee jump that I willingly took, as well as countless childhood pranks that I either took part in or was the subject of, and I'm still here today. And now, thanks to fate, my column wrote itself...

It all started last month, in Atlanta, Georgia at a national conference on graphic design. Sitting in on a "Future Trends in Interface Design" session, Mark Rolston the Creative Director of Frog Design, mentioned Windows CE. In the middle of an otherwise dreary presentation, he commanded my attention away from the Bubblets game on my Jornada Pocket PC with the phrase "this car stereo uses Windows CE." Instantly, I snapped to attention and switched from Bubblets to Pocket Word, so I could jot down every word that he was about to say regarding Windows CE. I expected disapproval, but as fate would have it, he glorified the platform. As Rolston described it, Windows CE "enabled" them to deliver the complex interface design that they had envisioned on the drawing board by providing a transparent channel that would communicate with the electronics of the stereo components when you tap the appropriate button on the LED display. Emotions welled up inside me as I took in the testimonial for embedded Windows CE in a way that was so concise and so unrehearsed that I knew it was from his personal experience. Frog is one of the top design companies in the world, with clients such as Apple Computer, AT&T, Disney and Ford, and when the company's Creative Director talks positively about a platform that "enables," it is with the experience of working through blood, sweat and tears. Companies like that deal with many, many different options and their conclusions should never be taken lightly.

Shortly after returning from my trip, I was handed a clipping from eWeek's June 5, 2000 issue. It featured an Associated Press photo of Congressman Dick Armey, holding a Pocket PC. Although the article poked fun at the Texas Republican's claim that "This Pocket PC is a nightmare to the Communist hard-liners in China," it was another clear sign of the coming pervasiveness of the platform. The fact is, a politician was using a Windows CE device to convey freedom of speech. Microsoft's eBook Reader application was being touted as a platform to communicate, a clear sign that someone (and an elected official, no less) understood a clear purpose for the device. A purpose that Congressman Armey, thought was so compelling, he used it as a foundation for his beliefs. Again, Windows CE receives a glowing and unsolicited testimonial. Finally, touching base with my contact at Hewlett Packard's PR agency to discuss other business, she confided in me that HP has achieved the leadership position in the U.S. Handheld PC marketplace over all other CE manufacturers and the heavily touted Psion and has the IDC numbers to back it up. IDC not only backs up HP's claim, but also the success of the Handheld PC market. In a study conducted last year, IDC found that nearly a quarter (24.8%) of their panel of 1,400+ users, influencers, and buyers actively involved in mobile device solutions "plan to purchase a PC companion (H/PC, H/PC Pro, etc.) in the near future." (Source: IDC ePanel Reveals Mobile Device Demand Remains High in 2000, IDC, January 25, 2000) IDC distinguishes the Handheld PC platform from the Pocket PC and Palm Pilot that they classify as "personal companions."

The success of the Handheld PC was further backed by another IDC study which states "Keypad handhelds remain entrenched and best serve an ergonomic and data collection function," (Source: Worldwide Smart Handheld Device Forecast Bolstered by Personal Companion Dominance IDC, December 22, 1999) giving them job security in the vast vertical marketplace where Palm may not have a (keyboard) leg to stand on. The best news from this brief and fortuitous discussion is that Hewlett-Packard remains a great supporter of the Handheld PC companion concept, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon.

So, I submit to you, the reader, that it was my fate to witness all of these unexpected supporters of the Windows CE platform and communicate them in my capacity as the Windows CE editor along with a message: if Palm, Inc. thinks that they've got a big enough rock to drop on Windows CE, I think they'll find that it just isn't our time to die.

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