Visual Basic

Windows CE and the IT Department

The development of applications for Windows CE falls mainly into two camps: embedded systems for custom hardware devices and high level applications for devices such as the HPC and the palm-sized PC. I would imagine that the development of software will be split into low-level development for the OEM and IHV and high-level development for the corporate Information Technology (IT) environments. Although some companies might use custom Windows CE devices, it is probable that they will use ready-built hardware and write their own custom high-level applications.

I imagine that many corporate developers might at this moment have visions of writing sales force automation systems and so on, but they (and everybody else) must consider their hardware limitations before deciding how best the technology can be utilized in their particular environment. For example, it might not be a good idea trying to port a full-blown ordering system to an HPC because of the memory constraints. The power requirements of HPC_style devices will continue to be a hindrance that prevents mass storage capabilities, although even as I write there is a company developing a fingernail-sized hard disk capable of storing a half megabyte of data. Battery technology will improve over time, but in the past advances in this area have been nowhere near the advances in hardware technology.

For the more conventional software houses and IT departments a whole new market will open up in areas such as point-of-sale systems, bar code information retrieval, and other data capture devices. The cost benefits are numerous; for instance, businesses such as local electricity companies or traffic enforcement agencies could invest in HPC machines for their meter readers to collect data off site, and then use the ActiveSync or ADO technology to upload data to the corporate database. The cost of an HPC is probably considerably less than the cost of custom hardware devices, and, as we have discussed, writing programs for these devices is a pretty easy task.

For the time being, I do not expect to be writing any aircraft control systems. However, with the enhancements being made to the real-time capabilities of Windows CE, it is quite possible that specialist companies might open their doors to the contract market or independent software houses. Basically, the future is not set-what we are seeing in Windows CE is a way forward that opens up many new niche areas.

Visual Basic Development

To develop Windows CE applications using Visual Basic, you will need the Windows CE Toolkit for Visual Basic 5. Notice that at the moment the toolkit will not run with any other version of Visual Basic. The toolkit provides the Windows CE-specific functionality and the IDE changes needed to create and build Windows CE applications. In terms of the language, Visual Basic for Windows CE is a subset of Visual Basic, Scripting Edition. This means that much of the Visual Basic 5 language is not supported. However, enhancements have been added to the language in Visual Basic 6, but not Visual Basic 5. This chapter is aimed at developers who are already experienced in Visual Basic 5 development and, therefore, this section focuses mainly on the differences and new features of the language and environment.