Visual Basic

What Is Windows CE?

Windows CE is simply a 32-bit, non-PC operating system. You might have seen Windows CE devices, such as the handheld PC (HPC) or the palm-sized PC-these are just some of the many applications run by the Windows CE operating system. So, although this chapter devotes much time to writing applications for the HPC, it is important to realize that these devices are only a small subset of Windows CE applications. Windows CE is designed to be a component-based operating system that can be embedded into any number of devices. Being supplied as a series of configurable components allows Windows CE to meet the stringent memory and size constraints common to many electronic devices.

If you were to compare the number of Microsoft Windows NT and Microsoft Windows 9x machines with the number of 32-bit operating systems throughout the world, you might be surprised to find that Microsoft comprises only a small percentage of the market. Windows CE is Microsoft's attempt to claim a larger percentage of the 32-bit operating system market. One of Microsoft's goals is to have the Windows CE operating system embedded into devices ranging from industrial control systems to everyday consumer devices. Bill Gates recently said at a TechEd conference: "Although Windows 98 is the big thing today, I do expect that two years from now Windows NT and Windows CE volume will be as great, or greater than, Windows 98 volume."

The Windows 9x operating systems at present outsell Windows NT and Windows CE. If Bill Gates' instincts are proven correct, the picture might look drastically different in the year 2000.

Peet's view of Windows CE is summed up by the following statement:

"I think that Windows CE is, and will become more and more, a key technology for our industry. It presents a fantastic new opportunity for developing great software and presents a new, almost unique set of challenges for developers worldwide. As the Technical Director of TMS, I'm determined that we will be a leading provider of both Windows CE-based solutions and, for the developer, the tools and technologies required to fully exploit the opportunity Windows CE presents."

The amount of interest being shown by both the electronics and developer communities is a sure sign that Windows CE is here to stay and that it will have a large impact in the marketplace. I said earlier that Windows CE is a non-PC operating system. At the time of this writing it is already possible to buy palm-sized PCs running Windows 95 with lots of memory and disk space. For programmers looking to implement applications comparable to those on the desktop, however, Windows CE is probably not the best choice of operating systems.