Microsoft lifts the lid on Pocket PC 2002

By Douglas F. Gray, IDG News Service |  Hardware

Microsoft Corp. plans to unveil its new Pocket PC operating system, which the company claims was designed around the requests of business customers, at the Demomobile 2001 conference.

The Pocket PC 2002 operating system, which will begin to show up on PDAs (personal digital assistants) on Oct. 4, features improvements based on "the top 30 customer requests," said Ed Suwanjindar, product manager with Microsoft's Mobility Group. "Some of them are smaller, some of them are bigger and flashier," Suwanjindar said.

Among the flashier improvements are the inclusion of Microsoft's instant messaging software and the ability for users to customize the startup page, but Microsoft also made some improvements which might not seem so obvious, such as the ability to view contacts in an address book organized by company names, Suwanjindar said.

"This release definitely has an enterprise focus on it," he said. "Mobile professionals are the ones who will find the greatest value on these devices."

Other features of the new operating system include handwriting recognition built into the operating system, which users had to load separately in previous versions; an option allowing users to send a voice response to e-mails, in the form of a .wav file; spellchecking in both Word and Inbox; and the ability to "beam" information between devices running the Pocket PC operating system and Palm Inc.'s operating system, which runs on Palm's own devices, as well as those of Handspring Inc., Suwanjindar said.

Microsoft has also added features designed to make products using its operating system connect to a network, Suwanjindar said. "Users now have remote access to a Windows desktop or server from the device," he said. "But the heavy lifting is all done on the server." For example, a doctor on a wireless network can access patient files, but those patient files would be stored on a secure server, instead of the handheld. Pocket PC 2002 also supports VPNs (virtual private networks), which was not supported in past versions of the operating system, Suwanjindar said.

For security improvements, Microsoft has given access to some APIs (application program interfaces), so third-party software companies can now develop anti-virus software for the operating system, Suwanjindar said. The company has also improved the operating system's password interface, replacing a four-digit numeric PIN with alpha-numeric support, as well as adding a countdown clock on the password screen. With each incorrect entry, the amount of time before another attempt can be made increases, cutting down on the possibility of successful "brute force" attacks, Suwanjindar said.

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