Alphabet Soup – Windows Mobile style

Photo of a T-Mobie DASH smartphone with QWERTY keypadIn my previous post I mentioned that I would be discussing the naming nomenclature changes which have occurred within the current releases of Microsoft’s embedded products. Not a lot of details have been given for the reasoning behind the name changes, so the following is based upon my educated guesses.

Windows Embedded

The operating system previously referred to as Windows CE is now correctly refered to as Windows Embedded CE.

I believe this change is designed to further align the names of the various embedded operating systems Microsoft now develops. You will notice that they now all include the word “embedded” within their product names:

Windows Mobile

Windows Mobile is a platform which has over a decade of history in the market place. During this timeframe there has been numerious name changes and the recently released Windows Mobile 6 release was no exception.

Back in April 2000 the first Pocket PC operating system was released, and was named Pocket PC 2000. In October 2001 an improved version was released with the name Pocket PC 2002.

The Pocket PC operating system was designed to operate on “traditional” style touch screen enabled PDA devices. Somewhere within the Pocket PC 2002 timeframe Microsoft also developed the first operating system designed for more cellphone style devices (no touch screen, and limited keypad data entry options). This operating system was called Smartphone 2002. The operating system had great similiarity to Pocket PC 2002 but had some smartphone specific additions and limitations, mainly UI differences to cope with the user’s inability to tap on controls.

Since both the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms were highly similiar (and shared a similiar code base), the 2002 releases were the last release to use seperate names for the two operating systems. Instead the next release was broadly labeled Windows Mobile 2003, and this was further split into three main “configurations”.

  • Smartphone – cellphone style devices with numeric keypads
  • Pocket PC – traditional PDA style devices with software keyboards (SIPs)
  • Pocket PC Phone Edition – A Pocket PC with built in cellular radio

Although the operating systems were now technically termed “Windows Mobile 2003 Smartphone” and “Windows Mobile 2003 Pocket PC” many people still used the simplier “Smartphone 2003″ and “Pocket PC 2003″ naming nomenclature (including Microsoft in various places within the respective SDKs).

Windows Mobile 2003 was then followed briefly by Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition which included some additional functionality such as native VGA resolution support. This was the last version of the operating system which included a year within the name.

The next operating system release was called Windows Mobile 5.0. This release saw a further merging of the two platforms with a larger varity of hardware keyboard styles and LCD screen sizes seen on both the Pocket PC and Smartphone platforms. The only real key differentiating factor now being that a Pocket PC has a touch screen while a Smartphone device does not (and a slightly different GUI).

Windows Mobile 6 Naming Nomenclature 

As you can see the two device families – Pocket PCs and Smartphones have been steadily converging. In fact Microsoft intends to merge both operating systems into a single customisable platform with their next release.

The Windows Mobile 6 release can be seen as a first step at doing this by changing the naming conventions to ones which are more closely aligned to this desire.

The new naming nomenclature is as follows:

  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional – formerly a Pocket PC Phone edition
  • Windows Mobile 6 Classic – formerly a Pocket PC
  • Windows Mobile 6 Standard – formerly a Smartphone

You can see now that a “standard” device can potentially have all the features of a “professional” device except for a touch screen and (at present at least) they have a slightly different GUI look and feel.

I speculate that with the next Windows Mobile release (due in 2008) that some of the GUI differences will be removed or atleast made configurable. With this change the new naming conventions can be seen as quite logical. In particular it is reasonably easy to explain why the smartphone platform may be protrayed as being the “lesser equal” of a Pocket PC device, as given the choose between a Standard and Professional device, wouldn’t most people by instinct choose the Professional one.

One last thing worth mentioning for those with a pechant for detail is that Windows Mobile 5.0 is correctly referered as version 5.0 not version 5 (notice the lack of a minor version number). With Windows Mobile 6 on the other hand Microsoft have chosen to use a single digit version number. I assume this is because “point releases” are now more likly to be distributed as Adoption Kit Updates (AKUs) and hence reasonably invisible to end users (they are all “Windows Mobile 5.0″ devices), so essentially the version number is only changing for significant platform changes which deserve a major version number.

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