The PocketPC picture became a bit clearer Tuesday when Microsoft announced that PocketPCs will ship with a variety of Office productivity applications based on their desktop equivalents. Specifically, Pocket Inbox, Pocket Word, and Pocket Excel will let PocketPC users work with familiar file formats while on the road.

Pocket Inbox will support corporate messaging solutions, such as Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, while providing access to Internet email, server folders, multiple types of attachments, and Web pages launched from inline URLs. Pocket Inbox will support POP3, IMAP, and LDAP email standards, making it a comprehensive mobile messaging tool. Pocket Word and Pocket Excel will support their own native document formats as well as those of their desktop counterparts.

PocketPC devices represent Microsoft's latest attempt to bring Windows CE out of its minor role in a mobile computing world dominated by the Palm series and its licensed clones. PocketPC devices should be available by mid-year