Microsoft Relaxes Pocket PC Hardware Restrictions

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Over the years, some handheld enthusiasts have pointed out that Microsoft could spur innovation in the Pocket PC platform by loosening restrictions on what its licensees can do with their hardware. Recently, the company decided to take this advice to heart and is going to give handheld designers greater freedom.

When Datamonitor interviewed Chris Hill, the lead product manager for the mobile devices division at Microsoft, he said, “Looking back we created a very tight definition of Pocket PC. Today our OEMs say they’re really comfortable where we are but they want to make their own [idea of a] Pocket PC with the ability to customize and differentiate.”

According to Mr. Hill, some future Pocket PCs will include clamshell designs, allowing for the inclusion of keyboards. There will also be ones with integrated thumboards. “We’ve done a lot of work on keyboard navigation so that users can leave the stylus in the device when using the keyboard.”

Microsoft has relaxed some of the restrictions to allow companies to create more compelling Pocket PC Phone Edition devices. This includes allowing designers to use touch screens as small as 2.8 inches, decreasing the overall size of the device and helping them be more competitive with smaller “dumb” phones and smartphones.

Everything Old Is New Again

The first handhelds running a Microsoft OS were called handheld PCs. These ran Windows CE and featured a clamshell design with a landscape-oriented screen on one side and a keyboard on the other. These devices were not terribly successful.

With the release of Pocket PC, the clamshell was abandoned in favor of tablet design with a vertically-oriented screen. This made them similar to handhelds running the Palm OS.

Recently, however, some Palm OS licensees have come up with devices that don’t use the tablet shape. Sony’s just-announced Clie PEG-UX50 uses a clamshell design, though its screen can be rotated so it can also be used as a tablet. This model drew praise from many Pocket PC users, who are calling on Pocket PC licensees to come up with similar models. With Microsoft relaxing the hardware restrictions on these companies, it’s entirely possible these people will get their wish.

Thanks to Pocket PC Thoughts for finding the Datamonitor article.

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