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Windows Mobile 2003 - Enhancements for All Users
By Chris De Herrera , Copyright 2003
 Version 1.00  Revised 6/23/2003

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Recently, Microsoft has released the Windows Mobile 2003 code name Ozone.  This article covers what Microsoft has changed to make the Pocket PC an even better experience.  Along with Windows Mobile 2003, Microsoft released ActiveSync 3.7 which is covered in the separate article.  Also, I have written about the Windows Mobile 2003 in the Enterprise article which covers the updates for the enterprise.

Microsoft has focused on improving communications with the Pocket PC.  Also, they have added multiple new applications such as Picture as well as a new game Jawbreaker.  Further they have made multiple improvements thought the system as well.

At the Core

One of the major changes that users will never really see is the switch from using Windows CE 3.0 to Windows CE 4.2 as the core operating system that Microsoft used to build the Pocket PC.   By implementing Windows CE 4.2, the system seems more responsive with the same speed cpu as the Pocket PC 2002 did.  Further there were some major enhancements that came with the operating system change as well such as support for IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6.0) which users in Japan are now using for their networks. 

Expanded Keyboard Support

Microsoft has recognized the need to use a keyboard with Pocket PCs. (Hitachi has included a built in keyboard in their Pocket PC).  When a keyboard has been detected by the Windows Mobile 2003, automatically the menu mnemonics (those underlined visual hints on what keys to press) are enabled!  Also, Microsoft has added Auto Menu Accelerators (or chorded keys such as “Control-C” for copy) so you can navigate even faster.  On Pocket PCs with an integrated keyboard, navigation and application keys allow you to navigate in applications.  For users of accented characters, the addition of SYM Key support allows you to easily enter these characters. 

Pictures – View and Orientation

Microsoft has added a new application called Pictures to the Pocket PC.  It adds the ability to view pictures.  It also supports the DCIM digital camera card format so it can thumbnail all the pictures on a CompactFlash or SD card.  Once a picture is selected, you can rotate, crop, zoom as well as a slideshow and beam or e-mail pictures.

Personal Information Management (PIM) Improvements

Microsoft recognizes that using the internal PIM is one of the most compelling uses for your Pocket PC.  They had focused on adding the following features to enhance the usability:

Optimized Contact Search where searches are based on a combination of letters in either the first or last name.  That you can find your contacts regardless of which part of their name you remember.  In the Calendar application, weekends are highlighted in blue and red which makes it easier to identify when not to schedule a work meeting on a holiday or weekend.  You’ll also notice that the days of the week at the top right portion of the display in the day view also have Sunday as red and Saturday as blue.  When you schedule a free appointment, it will no longer conflict with other appointments in your calendar.  Once the final day’s appointment has passed, the Today Screen will display the next day’s appointments. You can now edit recurring appointments in a different timzone without creating an exception or causing the appointment to disappear.

VCard & VCal

Now you can add contacts and calendar events using the VCard and VCal standard formats.  These formats are commonly used in e-mail to send a user your contact information.  Once a VCard is received, you can easily add the user to your contacts.  The same is true using VCal to schedule an appointment.

Communications

Microsoft has really focused on making the setup of communications with the Windows Mobile 2003 much easier.  Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, dialup and even good old Ethernet now have wizards to configure connections when you plug in or turn on your network connection. These standard way of prompting users to connect to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Ethernet will make end user support much easier. In order to use the Zero Configuration Wizard for Wi-Fi and Ethernet or the Bluetooth Wizard, your peripheral OEM must provide a new driver for Windows Mobile 2003.

Bluetooth Features 

Microsoft has added a standard way to manage Bluetooth connections in Windows Mobile 2003.  With the Bluetooth Partnership Wizard, you can turn on Bluetooth, search for devices and pair with a device.  Also when Bluetooth is enabled, the user can check if Bluetooth is connectable or discoverable.  Further once Bluetooth discoverable mode is enabled, the Pocket PC remains in discoverable modem which makes finding devices easier.  The Bluetooth support includes using Bluetooth as a modem connection to cellular phones, beaming contacts, calendar or files to other Pocket PCs and you can use Bluetooth to synchronize with your desktop.  In addition, OEMs have the ability to support the headset profile so you can use a Bluetooth headset with selected Pocket PCs.

Beaming

Microsoft has added support to beam using Bluetooth to the existing Infrared that was in prior versions.  Also, they have selected OBEX as the default so if you are receiving a beam from an older Pocket PC or Handheld PC, you need to click Start – Settings – Connections and Beam.  Then select the link at the bottom “Receive and Infrared Beam from a Pocket PC 2000 or Handheld PC”

Pocket Internet Explorer – Faster, Features, Functions!

Microsoft has greatly enhanced Pocket Internet Explorer – Actually they rewrote it!  They now support HTML 4.0, XML, xHTML, Jscript 5.5 and animate GIFs so you can see those banner ads change!  They also improved the overall speed of Pocket Internet Explorer making much faster to use.  Also they enhanced the fit to screen viewing.  I noticed this when I was checking my e-mail via a web interface and the text in the columns of the table were wrapped for easier readability. Further, Microsoft added WTLS and UAProf (for accessing WAP to secure websites) and WAP 2.0 support as well.  Microsoft provided all of these new features while using less ram which is pretty amazing! Further I was finally able to access my bank account information using my Pocket PC!

Windows Media Player 9.0

Microsoft has upgraded Windows Media Player to make video playback a much better experience with higher frame rates and better video rendering.  Now you can play back a 300k video stream!  BTW, Windows Media Player has the upgraded WMP 9.0 codec however it does not support the interframe rendering that the desktop does for enhanced viewing of low frame rate videos by interpolating between frames.  Also, Microsoft focused on improving the video buffering to enhance streaming playback.  Further you can select the connection speed in Windows Media Player to match your connection’s speed so you get the best playback.  Windows Media Player also supports Plus! Sync & Go so you can keep the latest web information, video and audio with you.  Plus! Sync & Go is an additional application for your desktop which may have additional fees for selected content.

PhotoStory – Custom SlideShow

If you have purchased the Plus! Digital Media Edition (DME) pack, you can playback PhotoStory files using Windows Media Player.  PhotoStory allows users to create custom slideshows of their pictures and narrate them to tell family and friends about a specific event.  It also includes panning and zooming effects to emphasize specific aspects of a image.  You can also add a title and credits as well as select background music for the slideshow.

Pocket PC Phone Edition Gets New Features

Microsoft also improved the Pocket PC Phone Edition with Windows Mobile 2003.  One of the first things you will notice is that they have added features to the SMS messages so you can now call the user back, quickly message them back and you can see their name in the message based on the lookup of the phone number in the contacts.  Also you will notice that the GPRS connection icon in the title bar is now animated when you connect to the internet.  Also, Microsoft added support for staying connected via GPRS by using suspend and resume even when you power off your Pocket PC.  Their philosophy is that once you connect via GPRS you don’t need to disconnect. In real life, I found this a little concerning since I pay per KB of data sent or received.  So I found that if I click on the connection in the Title Bar, I no longer hand an option to disconnect from GPRS.  So I tried clicking on the Turn Off Phone option and that disconnected me.  The interesting this is that it did NOT turn the phone off!  Another change I noticed on the Pocket PC Phone Edition is that you can now use MIDI files and WMA files as ring tones.  Here’s a hint, place the sound files into the \Windows\Rings directory and they will be available to be selected as a ringtone. So now you can get those cool polyphonic rings like other cell phones.

Enhanced SMS 

One of the major enhancements that Microsoft has added to the Windows Mobile 2003 is additional functionality with SMS.  Now you have the ability to reply to an SMS message directly, call the person delete or close it.

Old Game – New Name

Microsoft added a new game with the Windows Mobile 2003 called Jawbreaker along with good old Solitare. Well Jawbreaker is really not new – it’s a remake of Bubblets!  Oopdreams provided it for Microsoft to include in the Windows Mobile 2003 and it plays the same as Bubblets did.

Backward Compatibility

Windows Mobile 2003 continues to provide backward compatibility for existing Pocket PC applications. Generally if the application worked previously and it is not machine specific, it should work on Windows Mobile 2003. In order to take advantage of new functions like IPv6 and the new zero configuration/wizard technology you will have to acquire new drivers or applications.

Microsoft’s OEM Technology Guarantee

Microsoft has offered its OEM partners such as Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba and Dell a "technology guarantee" in order to encourage them to offer Windows Mobile 2003 upgrades for their customers that have purchased Pocket PC 2002 devices around the time of the Windows Mobile 2003 launch.  The Technology Guarantee Program is an optional program between OEMs and Microsoft where OEMs may choose to either participate or to not participate.   This Technology Guarantee program does NOT apply between Microsoft and the end user.  This technology guarantee is from Microsoft to its OEM partners and applies to devices purchased 30 days prior to launch of Windows Mobile 2003 and 90 days following the launch.  .  As mentioned earlier, OEMs may decide not to participate in the Technology Guarantee Program and may choose not to offer upgrades for existing Pocket PC 2002 devices.

Existing Pocket PC 2002 Upgrades?

While all Pocket PC 2002 devices are technically upgradeable to Windows Mobile 2003, it is up to the discretion of each individual OEM as to whether they will choose to offer an upgrade. Because each Pocket PC version requires a customized ROM image that must be made for each device in order for the latest version of the Pocket PC software to run on it,   Microsoft licenses its software only to the OEMs and not to consumers directly.  .  It’s important to note here that Microsoft does not provide software upgrades for Pocket PCs directly to consumers.  In order for an OEM to offer the upgrade, the OEMs make the necessary changes based on the specific hardware model to create a specific ROM image for each model of Pocket PC.  OEMs can then offer the upgrade to their customers. In some cases, OEMs may make a business decision whether or not to offer an upgrade for all models in all geographies in all languages.  At the time this article was written, OEMs are currently evaluating which models and languages they plan on offering upgrades to the Windows Mobile 2003 software.  I expect that pricing of upgrades from OEMs will be around $30 based on the prior upgrade pricing for Pocket PC 2002 however final pricing is set by the OEMs.  I recommend that all users contact their Pocket PC OEM to find out whether or not their Pocket PC 2002 is upgradeable.

Upgrading the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition

The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition OEMs have been provided the Windows Mobile 2003 update and they are testing it with their Pocket PCs.  This testing will delay the availability of Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition for users. At the time of this article, there are no announced plans for the upgrading of the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition.  I recommend that all users contact their Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition OEM to find out whether or not their Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition is upgradeable.

Conclusion

While I wish Microsoft’s pace of change would allow them to leap ahead dramatically, I can understand the need to focus on porting the Pocket PC to the latest version of Windows CE.  Clearly they added many new features that users will appreciate and added some new applications which are helpful for some users will use. Overall I am pleased that Microsoft has moved the Pocket PC forward to better meet user’s needs.

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