I thought I'd take a break from looking at enterprise mobility considerations and wireless middleware to focus on Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002. Microsoft recently announced the release of this mobility platform, which will be available for handheld devices in the next few months.

During the past year, Microsoft has been making mobile solutions a high priority as part of its .NET strategy. In essence, Microsoft Mobility Solutions wants to deliver enterprise content anywhere and anytime. In addition to announcing Pocket PC 2002, Microsoft is developing other mobility platforms and solutions that include the Stinger smart phone and Mobile Information 2001 Server, Enterprise and Carrier editions. Other solutions include Talasker (the next version of Windows CE) and additional components of the .NET platform such as the Compact Framework (CF) that will provide a Common Language Runtime (CLR) for using applications across multiple Windows platforms. Working together, these Microsoft solutions will provide technology for delivering end-to-end mobility solutions.

As just one piece of Microsoft's puzzle, Pocket PC 2002 is the next version of the Pocket PC platform built on top of Windows CE 3.0 for palm-sized computing devices. Although the OS essentially remains the same as the existing Pocket PC version, Pocket PC 2002 provides new features and functionality to enhance and optimize the user experience, security, and enterprise connectivity. Whereas current Pocket PCs are primarily consumer devices with related functionality, Pocket PC 2002 is a serious attempt by Microsoft to take the Pocket PC platform to the enterprise. Microsoft has made steady progress into the handheld market, and the Pocket PC platform has climbed from 10 percent to 16 percent of the handheld market in just the past year. This growth is primarily the result of the success of Compaq's iPAQ line of devices. My early impression of the Pocket PC 2002 platform is very good. Microsoft is clearly challenging Palm to produce a competing solution or be left behind.

If you currently use an iPAQ, you'll be able to update your device's flash ROM to the latest Pocket PC version. (This update will probably be available as a desktop utility that you'll install on your iPAQ using the cradle and USB port connection). If you own any other Pocket PC, such as the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Jornada and Casio Cassiopeia, you won't be able to update the ROM—you'll have to open your wallet and buy a new device. Interesting to note that all new devices using the Pocket PC 2002 platform must include flash ROM to enable future updates.

I've been lucky enough to play with the Pocket PC 2002 platform and evaluate some of its features. The first thing I noticed about Pocket PC 2002 is the Windows XP look and feel. One small but nice feature is the ability to directly terminate programs from the application window—a welcome change from the current Pocket PC, which makes opening programs easy but closing them difficult. Pocket PC 2002 also has a built-in Terminal Services client, Instant Messaging client, and direct mail-server connectivity options without requiring the use of desktop ActiveSync synchronization software. Pocket PC 2002 also provides a PPTP network adapter for direct VPN support. Current hardware device drivers and other applications should work; for example, I've been able to get the Cisco Aironet 340 802.11b card to work with my Pocket PC 2002 device for wireless LAN access.

Microsoft plans to include some exciting options with this latest release, so be prepared for some new devices for the Pocket PC 2002 platform. If you have a Palm device, maybe it's time to take another look at the Pocket PC. As I continue to work with this new platform, and as more information becomes available, I'll tell you more about Pocket PC 2002's options, challenges, and possibilities. For more information about Pocket PC 2002, visit the URL below.