Last week, I went to Microsoft's Fusion 2002 partner conference. I want to discuss some of the company's mobility-solution initiatives featured at the conference. I'll continue with my promised discussion of ruggedized Pocket PCs in the August 8 installment of Mobile & Wireless, Pocket PC edition.

I attended many of Fusion 2002's mobility sessions. I got a good look at where Microsoft is going with the Pocket PC and other mobility solutions. Since the inception of Windows CE, Microsoft has shifted the focus of its Pocket PC and mobility solutions several times. Finally, the company seems to be getting its strategy right. Microsoft's mobility solutions include five primary hardware options:

  1. Pocket PC 2002
  2. Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition
  3. Windows Smart Phone
  4. Handheld PC (H/PC)
  5. Windows XP Tablet Edition

I witnessed demonstrations of most of these devices and found that the devices share many common features but are designed for different purposes and users.

The Pocket PC 2002, Microsoft's flagship mobile device, is primarily a disconnected device with various add-on connectivity options. It's a rich-data device that requires two-handed operations with a stylus.

The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition has all the features of the Pocket PC 2002 device but, by default, is a connected device with built-in telephony and wireless-data functionality. The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition is primarily a Pocket PC and secondarily a phone. It targets high-end power users.

The Windows Smart Phone is an advanced smart phone that features one-handed operation with much PDA functionality. The Windows Smart Phone is primarily a phone and secondarily a PDA. With its relatively inexpensive price tag, it targets the broad market.

The H/PC is probably the least interesting platform of the five. Even Microsoft is taking a low-key approach with this platform. The H/PC is a specialized form factor that features a clamshell design with a half-screen and a miniature QUERTY keyboard. It often integrates cameras and other peripherals. These devices have built-in PC card slots, and recent devices run the Windows CE.NET OS.

From Microsoft's perspective, the Windows XP Tablet Edition isn't technically a mobile device. However, all of its features suit mobility solutions. The Windows XP Tablet Edition offers a full version of XP and can include all the Microsoft Office and application functionality that you'll find on desktops or laptops. One cool feature I played with on the Windows XP Tablet Edition was the Journal functionality, which offers impressively accurate transcription and auto-indexing of Journal documents. These devices will be available as a tablet only or as a convertible device that you can use as a laptop or a tablet, depending on your needs. Microsoft is targeting this platform to the knowledge worker who needs to easily create and manage notes.

Microsoft also demonstrated several development environments, including the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, adaptive UIs, and Microsoft .NET Speech technologies. These environments have recently made significant progress and are all becoming mainstream development technologies for mobile applications.

I also watched an interesting demonstration of the next version of Exchange Server, which includes integrated wireless features. Microsoft has been working on optimizing the use of Outlook over low-bandwidth connections and seamless use from connected and disconnected modes.

Finally, prior to Fusion 2002, Microsoft announced its Mobile Workplace Initiative, which involved Microsoft and partners delivering integrated mobility solutions end-to-end.

If you're interested in learning about a specific enterprise mobility solution, don't hesitate to contact me. I'd be happy to point you in the right direction.