Windows CE reaches end of life, if not end of sales

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Microsoft's dedicated OS for embedded and pocket devices, Windows CE, has reached nan extremity of its support lifetime. People's reactions are very mixed, depending connected wherever they're from.

Windows CE – and there's ne'er been an charismatic mentation of what nan WinCE-inducing sanction stood for – debuted successful November 1996, conscionable a fewer months aft Windows NT 4, nan first type of NT pinch nan Explorer desktop from Windows 95.

Earlier this month, arsenic reported by HPC Factor, nan past ever version, CE 8, branded Compact Embedded 2013, reached its extremity of support. In 2011, Microsoft said it would beryllium replaced by a unified level based connected Windows 8, but we cognize really good that went down. By 2020, nan charismatic migration way was group – to a container connected apical of Win10 IoT.

Its fortunes person ever fluctuated. In 1999, we asked does MS attraction astir WinCE? By 2003, we reported that eTForecasts said it would outship PCs. Indirectly, nan researchers were correct – smartphones did extremity up massively outselling PCs. They conscionable weren't Microsoft ones.

Teeny-tiny laptops

The early 1990s was a roar clip for pocket-sized computers, pinch aggregate brands and families getting successful connected nan game. Windows CE's genesis laic successful chasing 1 style of device, but past switched way to prosecute different fast-growing niche.

The Reg covered 1 type of instrumentality erstwhile we looked astatine ten ancestors of nan netbook a decade ago. Very early iterations specified arsenic nan DIP/Atari Portfolio were very constrained, but successful 1991, HP's calculator section offered nan HP 95LX, a pocket-sized DOS PC pinch Lotus 1-2-3. Over connected this broadside of nan pond, Psion's Series 3 came on immoderate 5 months later pinch a (keyboard-operated) GUI and multitasking.

Both were based connected NEC's Intel-compatible low-power CPUs – nan 95LX connected nan V20, pinch an 8-bit information autobus for illustration nan 8088, and nan Series 3 connected nan V30 pinch an 8086-style 16-bit bus.

It took a fewer years for Windows 95 to bring its personification interface crippled up to speed, and backmost past you couldn't fresh nan 386-class CPU and difficult disk that 95 required into a pocket-sized instrumentality that would tally connected 2 AA batteries.

Windows Pegasus became Windows CE 1.0

Windows Pegasus became Windows CE 1.0

Enter shape left, Windows CE 1.0. A full caller OS for various low-power RISC CPUs, including MIPS and Hitachi SuperH. The first Windows CE devices launched successful 1996 aimed astatine nan palmtop PC segment: Casio's Cassiopeia A-10 and nan NEC MobilePro 200.

The emergence of nan 'scribble thing'

In nan meantime, though, nan handheld marketplace had been evolving successful a different direction. First came the Apple Newton successful 1993, which was an astonishing creation and showed nan imaginable of a handheld "personal integer assistant" – without really being a very bully 1 itself (The Reg FOSS table owns 2 of nan things). Although Apple fixed this successful NewtonOS 2, nan original Newtons could only publication cursive, not print, and they had to study their owner's handwriting – making it almost intolerable to efficaciously effort a friend's, aliases a shop demo unit.

Apple Newton MessagePad

Apple Newton MessagePad

That led to a third-party replacement text-entry strategy for nan Newton, Palm's Graffiti, which ended up evolving into a abstracted device, nan Palm Pilot 1000. This launched successful 1996, conscionable somewhat earlier WinCE Palm PCs came to market. Famously primitively a woody mockup, they're described and pictured successful our Newton communicative above. The Palm Pilot 1000 was deliberately overmuch smaller, simpler, and cheaper than nan Newton, and was designed to beryllium tethered to a PC aliases Mac, from which it fto you return your reside book and diary pinch you. These elemental small monochrome gadgets were a large hit, pinch millions of units sold.

  • When merchandise names spell bad: Microsoft's Raymond Chen connected nan cringe down WinCE
  • Just can't fto spell of those Windows CE apps? Microsoft has a instrumentality for that
  • MS has yet different ace astatine handheld PCs
  • Does MS attraction astir WinCE, aliases is nan browser nan platform?

That benignant of occurrence attracted Microsoft's interest, and by 2000 led to what we described arsenic Microsoft having yet different ace astatine handheld PCs – keyboardless palmtops, alternatively than mini laptop-style devices, and marketed astatine "down-the-line MS-supporting systems managers, wished to stamp retired Palm Pilots successful nan sanction of 'security'."

A Start Menu connected your palmtop? Why not?

A Start Menu connected your palmtop? Why not?

These did alternatively better, and led to 1 of nan galore rebrands of nan OS, arsenic it became Pocket PC 2002, already recovered connected immoderate very early smartphones. Although these were still based connected Windows CE, Microsoft was very keen to make it clear that Pocket PC isn't WinCE … though nan aforesaid OS was underneath.

Gonna get myself connected

Until nan iPhone came along, Microsoft smartphones continued to conflict PalmOS-based ones, neither overmuch troubling nan wider user world. In 2005, we subtitled our review of Dell's Axim x50v "the Perfect PDA?" – instantly invoking Betteridge's Law of Headlines: Any header that ends successful a mobility people tin beryllium answered by nan connection 'no.' Palm devices, arsenic that reappraisal noted, remained much responsive, but Windows CE Pocket PC ones boasted colour screens, richer multimedia, and slots for much retention aliases different gadgetry.

Dell Axim X50 Pocket PC

Dell Axim X50 Pocket PC

After nan iPhone, nan smartphone marketplace soon became an A/B prime betwixt iOS aliases Android. The last awesome merchandise of a Windows CE-based OS was Windows Phone 7 successful 2010. Although "Tango" made it to version 7.8, that was nan extremity of nan line. The caller Windows Phone 8 was a full caller OS, based connected nan NT kernel of Windows 8, and very fewer Windows Phone 7 devices could beryllium upgraded.

Microsoft's off-again past on-again acquisition of Nokia's telephone section made small difference: Windows Phone was near successful a reasonably distant 3rd spot arsenic nan fund option. When this vulture moved to Central Europe successful 2014, we soon noticed that while smartphones successful wide remained rare, astir of those we saw were Windows devices. In nan West, they besides mopped up erstwhile BlackBerry users, but a mates of years later we called Windows Phone's marketplace stock a rounding error.

The misplaced branding workout of calling 2 unrelated OSes "Windows Phone," and trading inexpensive but decently-specced CE-based WP7 devices that couldn't beryllium upgraded to nan NT-based WP8, sealed CE's fate. The UI was good, and from individual experience, owners liked it and liked nan devices.

The non-Phone type trundled connected for a while, utilized successful point-of-sale devices and different embedded hardware, but now its travel is over. Microsoft being nan company it is, though location will beryllium nary much updates, you tin still bargain it: