Windows Mobile vs. Windows CE

You’ve probably heard of the Windows Mobile platform, or the Windows Mobile operating system, what is this, and is there any relationship between this and Windows CE ? – This is a question that comes up all the time, so here’s my attempt to explain the relationship between Windows Mobile and Windows CE…

A long time ago, in a place far, far away </cue music> Windows CE 1.0 shipped, this was 1996, at this time we didn’t have an embedded development kit for developers to build their own embedded operating systems, but we did have an OEM Adaptation Kit (OAK) which was provided to Compaq and Casio to produce the Handheld PC 1.0.

If we spin forward a few years the Mobile Devices Product Group (MDPG) shipped a number of Adaptation Kits for devices called Palm-Sized PC (anyone remember those?), Handheld PC 2000, Pocket PC 2000, Pocket PC 2002, and now Windows Mobile 2003 – At the core of all of these devices is the Windows CE operating system – here’s how this works…

Windows CE can be thought of as a bucket of Lego, a developer chooses the ‘bricks’ needed to build their specific device, they build their operating system image based on the Windows CE O/S technologies, and perhaps add their own custom device drivers, user interface, and applications (see where this is going yet?) – At this point the device is ‘done’ and can be shipped.

The Windows CE O/S and Tools team ship the Windows CE product to the general embedded developer audience (that’s you), and also ship the same bits to various teams within Microsoft, this includes Windows Mobile (Pocket PC and Smartphone), Windows Automotive (Automotive), MSNTV and so on… The Windows Mobile team, just like any other customer configures the operating system components, adds their own mix of user interface, and applications, and this becomes Pocket PC or Smartphone – this mix of ‘bits’ is provided to OEM’s such as HP, Samsung, Motorola, and others who create the hardware specific BSP (drivers, OAL) and then ship the Windows Mobile device.

Got it ?

– Mike

Comments (4)

  1. Jeff Parker says:

    Got it CE is basically the base, or Core of windows mobile, portable deviced, Except XP Embeded Which is really a lot like or is XP?

    You know I still have one of those old Original HP Jornada, black and white, still running CE 1.0 still in fine working condition. I haven’t taken it out in a long time. I believe it is in the closet of memorabilia, along with a an old Apple II.

  2. David says:

    Interesting, thanks for taking the time to explain it.

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