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Saturday, April 3, 2010

Programming Microsoft Windows CE


I was introduced to Microsoft Windows CE right before it was released in the fall of 1996. A Windows programmer for many years, I was intrigued by an operating system that applied the well-known Windows API to a smaller, more power-conserving operating system. The distillation of the API for smaller machines enables tens of thousands of Windows programmers to write applications for an entirely new class of systems. The subtle differences, however, make writing Windows CE code somewhat different from writing for Windows 98 or Windows NT. It's those differences that I'll address in this book.
Just What Is Windows CE?

Windows CE is the newest, smallest, and arguably the most interesting of the Microsoft Windows operating systems. Windows CE was designed from the ground up to be a small, ROM-based operating system with a Win32 subset API. Windows CE extends the Windows API into the markets and machines that can't support the larger footprints of Windows 98 and Windows NT.

Windows 98 is a great operating system for users who need backward compatibility with DOS and Windows 2.x and 3.x programs. While it has shortcomings, Windows 98 succeeds amazingly well at this difficult task. Windows NT, on the other hand, is written for the enterprise. It sacrifices compatibility and size to achieve its high level of reliability and robustness.

Windows CE isn't backward compatible with MS-DOS or Windows. Nor is it an all-powerful operating system designed for enterprise computing. Instead, Windows CE is a lightweight, multithreaded operating system with an optional graphical user interface. Its strength lies in its small size, its Win32 subset API, and its multiplatform support.
Products Based on Windows CE

The first products designed for Windows CE were handheld "organizer" type devices with 480-by-240 or 640-240 screens and chiclets keyboards. These devices, dubbed Handheld PCs, were first introduced at Fall Comdex 96. Fall Comdex 97 saw the release of a dramatically upgraded version of the operating system, Windows CE 2.0,with newer hardware in a familiar form—this time the box came with a 640-by-240-landscape screen and a somewhat larger keyboard.

In January 1998 at the Consumer Electronics Show, Microsoft announced two new platforms, the Palm-size PC and the Auto PC. The Palm-size PC was aimed directly at the pen-based organizer market currently dominated by the Palm Pilot. The Palm-size PC sports a portrait mode, 240-by-320 screen and uses stylus-based input. A number of Palm-size PCs are on the market today.

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