Is Windows CE dead?

Just read an article on the NY Times site "Can Microsoft make Windows for a small world?" the article focuses on Windows 7 (desktop o/s) - its also interesting that the author mentions "The company hardly mentions Windows CE anymore", does this mean that Windows CE is dead? - far from it, there are of course a number of fairly well known devices that run the Windows CE O/S (or to give it the full, current product name, "Windows Embedded CE 6.0 R2"). Obvious devices running Windows CE are Windows Mobile [Windows Mobile 6.1 runs on the Windows CE 5.0 operating system kernel], Zune, Microsoft Roundtable (video conferencing), Ford Sync, and a large number of the worlds Portable Navigation devices!

The reality is that many devices running Windows CE are either headless (industrial control/automation), or boot and run a completely custom user experience, in which case the user doesn't know that the device is running on a Windows Embedded operating system, and in many cases isn't aware that their device even has an operating system on board.

Windows CE hasn't gone away, in fact we're working on the next release of the product right now...

- Mike

Comments (13)

  1. Sebastian says:

    Hi Mike,

    Windows Mobile from a consumer standpoint is living in the shadows.  It doesn’t nearly get all the hype and attention that the iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and now even the new Palm operating system receive.  Its market share is slipping and to be honest, it’s stagnant.

    From a developer perspective this is worrisome.  For all its faults and challenges, Windows Mobile I believe has a great deal of power and more potential.  But what it desperately needs though, is some *focused love from Microsoft* .

    Windows Mobile needs more attention than it has been getting over the years.  And Microsoft needs to get its complacent act together.  Or get used to losing developers, more market share, and having their lunch eaten.

    Developers and even normal folk have been complaining for a while now regarding Windows Mobile lack of App. store, poor GUI experience,and slow responsiveness of the o/s itself.

    To Microsoft: Shame on you!

    You have countless research people in your labs, tons of developers, and you have failed to improve the Windows Mobile GUI.  Instead Zune and the Surface technologies took the spotlight.

    The future is here and it’s mobile.  If Microsoft wants a place in it they need to move more quickly and support their developers better.  This is no time to be complacent and mediocre.

    Yet they remain silent.  Ignoring everyone.  Which is frustrating to the people that have invested time and money in supporting this platform.

    So I kindly ask you, show me why Windows Mobile still deserves to have developers care for it?

    Because it definitely doesn’t look like Microsoft cares much for it.  And I’m actually one of the ones that *do* want it to succeed.   :/

  2. Loke Uei says:

    Sebastian. First off, thank you so much for your continued support. we totally understand where you’re coming from and your frustrations. Frankly, we feel the same too. That said, you know that development cycles can be pretty long and making sure that we deliver the right thing for consumers, business folk and developers can be very challenging.

    Rest assured, we are working on it 🙂 We never stop innovating. You will see something really soon that will give you back that sense of pride and affection for our technologies. We have also taken steps to ensure that you WILL be more successful when developing for our platform, monetarily and in fame.

    Please do continue to give us feedback, we do hear and listen from all of you. We want this to succeed more than anyone else 🙂

    thanks again!

  3. This the question the NY Times is asking in one of its article. Mike has been reacting on his blog about

  4. Mike Hall says:

    Loke, thanks for posting your comment from "Windows Mobile Land" :O)

    Interestingly, Windows Mobile and Windows Embedded are in two different divisions within Microsoft – both report up to Robbie Bach who runs the Entertainment and Devices group (E&D).

    The Windows Embedded group (where I work) is focused on embedded devices and systems, anything from robots and medical devices, through to kiosks, ATMs, digital signage, sewing machines, industrial control/automation, and more – pretty much anything that isn’t a desktop PC or Windows Mobile phone.

    – Mike

  5. I think that Windows CE is lacking visibility in the OS market.

    The only visibility it gets is connected with Windows Mobile that is a good sample of OS customization, but does not leverage all the features of the OS.

    When I talk at conferences etc. here i Italy many people don’t know CE at all and those who know it usually think that is an OS for smartphones and PDAs. And, since today WM is a bit "out of fashion", even if it has a great development environment (to be honest I should say that programming on the iPhone and mac is also a very nice experience from a programmer point of view), it’s not a closed as the iPhone, Windows CE is also considered a bit "outdate" or not supported by ms.

    Improving the UI and the browser is mandatory now (and not only on WM, please!), but I suppose that hearing no news from ms does not mean that there are no news… simply that they will be big news (who heard about .NET framework before its launch?).

    Many people simply can’t believe that a "version of Windows" (and the new naming of embedded OSs will enforce this idea) can be hard-realtime, allow easy development of drivers and low-level components, is very customizable and also provided with lots of source code and a low per-piece license.

  6. Sebastian says:

    If I was Microsoft, here is the strategy that I would use right now for Windows Mobile:

    Part 1:  Catch-up  (FAST!)

    • Build an application store like the rest of the other mobile platforms are doing.  Learn from their mistakes and design a winner.  It’s easy, and you’ve got the resources.  So don’t be lazy!

    • Don’t force people to install any crap in their browser or computer just to be able to view the app store.  (*cough* iTunes *cough*)

    • The developer registration price should be cheap as well.  Free is nice.  But $25 or $50 is not a lot to ask for some commitment from developers.  And with it, give the developer their own signed certificate.

    • Plus allow development to be free once again.  Make Visual Studio Express Edition support the Windows Mobile SDK.

    • Microsoft’s commission regarding any sale from the app store should be %10.  This will provide Microsoft some cash to keep the store running and attract more developer business.

    • I do not know what the exact licensing prices are for Windows Mobile and the handset makers, but it will definitely need to be adjusted.  For Android is free and that in itself is enticing when building a mobile phone or other device.

    Part 2:  WIN!

    Fire your current Windows Mobile GUI designers and hire new ones.  Plus invest heavily in optimizing the platform for speed.

    Windows Mobile, based on Windows CE, is incredibly flexible to allow itself in being molded for any handheld device, not just for mobile phones.  Its GUI has the power to also be replaced.  Yet relying on the OEM’s to perform such a task was wishful thinking.  Until the iPhone entered the market, there wasn’t any concern for reinventing the way people use touch-sensitive mobile interfaces.

    Part 3:  Communicate

    There is nothing worse than feeling ignored.  So dedicate a small group from your huge marketing department to focus entirely on Windows Mobile.  Inform the communities what Microsoft is up to with Windows Mobile and its road map.  Being silent does you no good.  Where is the transparency?

    I believe the above strategy is aggressive, but necessary to make people more aware of Microsoft’s involvement within the mobile space.

    Like I stated before, this is no time to be complacent and mediocre.

    Windows Mobile 6.5 needs to come out soon and make some serious waves.  If it’s dissapointing, you can bet us developers are going to jump ship to Android.

    As a note:

    IE Mobile is dead already due to Opera and others.  Plus when stupid decisions like to only release the new IE mobile for new devices only because "current devices are too weak to run it" is made, then it clearly shows me that the wrong people are steering the ship.

    And you expect me to take it upon "faith" that Microsoft knows what their doing and will improve this platform?

  7. Mike Hall posted in his blog yesterday an article from the NY Times, “Can Microsoft make Windows for

  8. Alex says:

    Taking about ignoring developer…

    I asked about Silverlight for WinCE in another topic and I got silence from Mike Hall.




    "… I suppose that hearing no news from ms does not mean that there are no news… simply that they will be big news.."

    I would like to think the same, but the changes that came from CE 6.0 were not very significant, considering the current demands for being innovative.

  9. Alex says:


    and the almost null activity in the WinCE team blog makes think that "WinCE is dead".

  10. William Luu says:

    Sebastian: Perhaps this rumour is close to what you’re wanting from MS ->

    And also see this project here ->

    There’s also, which has been around for years and has been an mobile device app store that sells not software not just for WinMo but other mobile OSes too.

    I don’t think IE Mobile is dead (yet), however I do agree with you that these browser updates should be downloadable/installable for people with existing phones without having to get new devices.

    That said, for some phones a few device manufacturers have been providing official ROM updates for their phones.

    The other thing to remember though is that mobile phones have traditionally had short life-spans. Usually as soon as a 12-24 month contract is up, people will "upgrade" to a new phone. By that time there is usually new devices on the market hawking "awesome" new features etc including a new version of an OS.

  11. Jed says:

    The whole "trust us, we’re working on it; we can’t say *anything* until [release|TechEd|whatever]" is the root of this issue: any conversation between CE people and developers has become one-way marketing. Even blogs are just teasing instead of usable stuff. (We used this beta technology with one customer, good luck you ever even playing with it… no info on even how you could; etc.) The death of MEDC follows this trend.

    Computing power is so cheap the only reason people go Windows CE over Standard is the licensing costs. Linux being free will slowly eat this up as hardware vendors get behind user-friendly development tools.

    Meanwhile, everyone hates on Windows Mobile, mostly because handset makers are responsible for the UI. That and IE 6 (almost 8 yrs old) is supposed to be exciting.

    Ranting over, I do see how it would be hard to distribute betas of a fully configurable OS; however, maybe it’s time to start w/ VM’s?

  12. I think the alleged lower visibility of Windows CE comes from it being included in a lot of "I don’t care how it works as long as it does" products.  I don’t know whether my Microwave oven, cable tuner, or  remote control contain any Windows CE, Java, or other embedded products and I can’t say that I’ve spent much time pondering or trying to figure it out. These devices typically have interfaces for performing what ever their function is and nothing more. There’s no Help->About menu on my local ATM that will give me such insight. And that is all perfectly fine.  I don’t shop for my consumer products according to what embedded OS they use. The customers of the CE OS would be the developers and not the end users. From looking through I see that there are a lot of products that contain CE but no branding from Microsoft.  This is something I think the NY Times writer may have overlooked.

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