Latest Pocket PC finds receptive audience

In San Francisco yesterday, Microsoft Corp. officially launched Pocket PC 2002 – the second version of its operating system for handheld devices.

According to Microsoft, Pocket PC 2002 – which is likely to ship on the newest handhelds from Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Compaq Computer Corp., Casio Inc. and Toshiba Corp. – includes a number of improvements demanded by its business users. These enhancements include handwriting recognition, the ability to share information with Palm Inc.’s competing OS, and support for virtual private networks.

Release of a new OS aside, the past 12 months have been a breakthrough year for Pocket PC, said Albert Daoust, analyst for handheld devices with Evans Research Corp. in Toronto.

“This is a market that had been stagnant (selling 20,000 devices per year) for four years up until 1999 and boom – in the year 2000, in Canada, they sold 30,000 units, and now they are on track for 80,000-plus Pocket PC units in 2001,” Daoust said.

Although these are impressive numbers for the Pocket PC devices, Daoust said it is important to remember that Palm is still selling ten times as many handhelds.

“[The Pocket PC] will never ever catch the Palm in terms of real volume because it is just not a consumer gadget. The Pocket PC represents a fundamentally different need, it’s stripped down, but it is a real computer in your pocket that can run the same applications, more or less, as a (desktop) PC,” he said.

Vancouver-based Veratium Software Ltd. recently released a Pocket PC 2002-enabled version of its MOTIVUS Enterprise Server, a communications protocol that enables secure access to files, folders and e-mails that reside on desktop computers or corporate networks.

According to Phil Calvin, Veratium’s president and CEO, the Pocket PC 2002’s enhanced enterprise features and the number of vendors commited to it make it a very promising platform.

“Some of the things (Microsoft) has done to make its environment more network-friendly, like the addition of VPN support, actually make a lot of sense from our viewpoint. It actually allows a simpler deployment more in line with the security requirements of most enterprises,” he said.

The only problem that Daoust sees for the Pocket PC category is the upcoming merger between HP and Compaq.

Both of these companies have suddenly taken off in the Pocket PC market, and the possibility that one of these two dominant brands could disappear may cause some uncertainty,” he said.

Merger mania aside, Daoust said that over the next five years Pocket PC sales should grow from 30 to 50 per cent annually, and added that it is good for the market to know that Microsoft is investing money in the platform.

“This is a product category with great momentum. Any new additions and upgrades are very important – they send a tremendous message out to the development community that Microsoft is going forward with this product category. Every week there is a new technology out and it’s fundamentally important for Microsoft to say ‘Hi – we’re still here, we’re moving it forward in a timely basis.'”

Evans Research is at

Veratium is at