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Windows CEntral
October 2002

The Conversation

Editor: Ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for attending this meeting. As you may recall, in my last editorial I wondered why Microsoft didn't deliver the knockpout punch to Palm when Palm was in the ropes. I wondered why you all, and especially Microsoft, didn't make more of an effort to establish the Pocket PC as the Number One PDA platform out there. I wondered why the grand Pocket PC 2002 launch was followed by pretty much nothing at all. The Xscale introduction came and went, Windows CE 4.0 was released in stealth mode, as was the Pocket PC Phone edition, and there really haven't been any new products to speak of. What is going on?

Microsoft: We are aware that we've perhaps played it a bit low-key. But you have to understand that squashing and annihilating a competitor is an absolute no-no for us in today's environment. We could wipe Palm off the face of the earth right now if we wanted, but then we'd have the whole justice department on our caseby tomorrow. Between them self-destructing and the PDA market being a tiny part of our overall business, it was simply not worth it, so we decided to fly low.

Editor: Well, we suspected as much. Still, we think there's a difference between aggressively going after a competitor with the intent to dominate and defeat that competitor on the one hand, and enhancing and improving a product on the other hand. A few well coordinated introductions and releases would have been a boon to the Pocket PC platform without being considered a threat to Palm. How do you OEMs see it?

Casio: Don't ask us. Remember, we're the one who spent all that money coming up with the best Pocket PC lineup in the market just to see Microsoft wipe us out with their "StrongARM-only" policy for Pocket PC 2002. We had the first real multimedia Pocket PC in the Cassiopeia 1xx series, we had the first low cost multimedia Pocket PC in the EM500, we offered more durable versions for business in the EG80/800, and we had industrial models in the IT70/700. All obsoleted by Microsoft because we used NEC processors. Sure, we tried to be good about it and not complain, and we had the StrongARM-based E-200 by a Taiwanese company, but can you blame us for being bitter? Why do you think we did the BE300 series?

Compaq: Don't look at us. We've done everything right, haven't we? Sure, the Casio E100 was nice, but it was us who put the Pocket PC on the map with the iPAQ. And last year we improved the original iPAQ with the second generation 3800 Series. Heck, when Pocket PC 2002 came out, everyone copied us: Reflective screen, button arrangement, jackets, everything. Then we were the first to add Bluetooth. And now we have an even better Xscale-based 3900 Series. Alright, no phone edition yet, but that's not far off. Why do you think Fiorina picked us and not their own stuff when our esteemed management decided to commit corporate suicide and merged us into HP?

NEC: Excellent question. You know that at NEC we've supported Windows CE from Day One, and that was a decision that cost us plenty. Sure we have some pretty great products in the various MobilePros, but it was a bear dealing with Microsoft's ever-changing Windows CE-strategies. So we first decided to pass on the Pocket PC but then so many people asked that we did one anyway. Had high hopes for it. The MobilePro 300 was a nice machine, But somehow we just couldn't get it to work right. Not for the consumer market, anyway. So we decided to lay low and make them available for those corporate customers who wanted them. Sorry.

Toshiba: Okay, so we're new to the game, and perhaps we've played it a bit too low-key as well. But we're here now and we've introduced more new Pocket PCs than anyone else, haven't we? Maybe we made a mistake not using the "Genio" name that worked so well for us in Japan, and maybe our first model was a bit generic, but you must admit that the ultra-thin, low cost e310 was very cool, and our new e710 has both an Xscale and internal 802.11b. Maybe we need to jazz up the design a bit and do some marketing, but we'd say we've done pretty well.

Fujitsu: Alright, alright. We know. Yes, we had the first Xscale Pocket PC in the Pocket Loox, and we knew it was a darn cool machine and we could have made a big splash. But that's just not us. We're not into making big splashes, and there really wasn't agreement inside the company on what to do with the product. The Siemens folks really liked it for the European market, but in the US we first thought we should introduce it, then decided against it, then for it, then against it again. Now, we just sort of sell it to our customers if they ask for it.

HP: It's a non-issue for us, now that we got the iPAQ. Those babies sell themselves. So we had to ditch the Jornada brand. That's life. It's too bad we had to dismantle the Jornada team because they had finally come up with a real contender in the 560 Series. But the iPAQ had the name, so we let the old Compaq team do its thing. As for Microsoft and their strategy, that's their business. We fully support them.

Editor: What about the Pocket PC Phone Edition?

HP: We had a product for Europe, the Jornada 928. It was essentially a 560 Series with a phone on top. Makes little sense to pursue that now that we have the iPAQ. Besides, PDAs are small fry. Why bother with a subset of them? We'll leave that to the Scandinavians.

The rest: Yes, that's risky business. Pocket PCs don't add much to our bottom line, so why spend money on a convergence product that may get us bad press. We'll leave that to the Scandinavians.

Editor: Will Xscale have an impact? And what about aka Windows CE 4.x?

Everyone: Yes, Xscale is nice and we'll all migrate. So far there isn't much incentive as we're told the first machines aren't much faster, if at all. As for, we'll just wait for Microsoft. We'll go along with the flow. All we can do, really.

Microsoft: We can't comment on that. And we wish our worthy competitors at Palm the best.

Editor: Thank you all for your candor. I am sure you all know that we here at Pen Computing Magazine hope to see some real action in the Pocket PC market again real soon, and we're sure we speak for our readers and your customers as well.

Conrad H. Blickenstorfer

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