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Sneak Peek at CE 2.0
With Windows CE 2.0 just around the corner, I'm playing with an early beta of the software development kit (SDK). To make things more interesting, Microsoft is talking about three new platforms code-named Mercury, Apollo and Gryphon. Mercury is basically an enhanced HPC, with more memory, more screen colors and more functions in ROM. Apollo is a mobile Windows CE PC the size and shape of a car radio, which is exactly where it will go. Gryphon is a shirt-pocket-size HPC with stripped-down functionality and no keyboard; it looks more like a pocket organizer than a full-fledged HPC, but it's still programmable.
Mercury and Gryphon run programs that closely resemble CE 1.0 applications. Apollo programs are totally different, as you might expect from the altered look and feel. Apollo applications use a Form Manager (the Faceplate API) instead of windowing. Naturally, the Apollo device has APIs for audio output, including volume controls, radio tuning and CD selection. But it's more ambitious than that: It also has APIs for speech output and recognition, street navigation, global positioning, IR communication and wireless (cellular/pager) communication. The CE 2.0 SDK includes emulators and development tools for all three target devices.
There is a flaw here, however. Mercury devices could have Microsoft Foundation Classes, Java, Visual Basic or all three in ROM-it's up to the manufacturer. Software developers won't know which language to adopt until they know what capabilities will be on the devices they're targeting. Hardware manufacturers won't know what options to put in their ROMs until they know what the software they want to run requires.
The only solution I can see is a lot of deal making. Somehow, it all comes down to a guy in a plaid suit and a guy in a loud Hawaiian shirt negotiating over lattes in a fern bar in darkest Silicon Valley.