Microsoft today officially launched Pocket PC 2002, the upgraded version of software used to run handheld computing devices such as the Compaq iPaq.
Hewlett-Packard also introduced two new Jornada handhelds that will run Pocket PC 2002 and Symbol Technologies said its family of handhelds, too, will support the new version. Devices already equipped with flash memory - including the iPaq - will be able to simply upgrade the operating system.
The new version of Pocket PC addresses the most common user requests, including an improved interface that makes it easier to navigate through menus and programs, Microsoft executives said at a press and analyst briefing in late August.
Most of the changes were made to the e-mail inbox, allowing it to operate smoothly using low latency wireless connections, said Joel Dehlin, Microsofts Pocket PC group program manager. The software allows Internet connections via the wireless LAN 802.11 standard as well as mobile cellular digital packet data (CDPD) and global system for mobile communications (GSM).
Microsoft also has made improvements for developers. Pocket PC 2002 includes a virtual machine that should be easier for developers to use than the previous emulator, Dehlin said.
Still, some analysts at the August briefing griped about functionality. For example, on the contacts page, a name and full phone number dont fit across the screen. Users must open up a full contact entry to retreive a number.
Although Pocket PC products carry a high price tag - the Jornada starts at $599, figure another $200 for a wireless connection card - the 2002 software includes a number of new features that are geared toward consumer users. It includes changeable skins, an updated Windows Media Player and instant messaging.
Given the expense of the devices, some analysts wondered about the consumer focus.
"The Pocket IM seems to work well but the challenge is that it predicates a strong wireless connection in the first place," said Isaac Ro, an Aberdeen Group research associate. "How many people have wireless LANs at home?"
Its not yet clear what effect the recent announced merger of HP and Compaq will have on the Pocket PC market. "As long as we keep seeing the kind of innovation that especially Compaq has shown in the past, with more resources and reach, it should be a good thing," said Martin Dunsby, a Deloitte Consulting partner.