A PC in your pocket

Microsoft Canada and some  partners  have unveiled the Pocket PC, launching what they call “a new era” of personal computing. Powered by Microsoft Windows, the new Pocket PCs are available in Canada from Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Casio. The market for pocket computers is strong, according to Microsoft.

“It’s really all about customers wanting to do more with their devices,” says Elliot Katz, Microsoft’s Pocket PC Marketing Manager. “Today, popular handhelds are essentially an electronic replacement for traditional day timers. The Pocket PC has expanded capabilities that enable Canadian users to take the best of their PC with them wherever they go. It will help people make the most of their time by helping them manage their work and personal lives.”

But what  can the Pocket PC do that an electronic daytimer can’t?  Plenty, as it turns out. These are powerful little machines that could go head to head with the desktop computer of just a few years ago. Pocket PCs will be built on powerful 32-bit microprocessors with 16 or 32 MB of memory, and come with industry-standard expansion slots. That means that you can that you can take a memory card (similar a small floppydisc) and insert it into the Pocket PC for over 300 additional megabytes of storage. You can also use the slot to plug in a modem, a digital camera, or any number of hardware devices to expand what the Pocket PC can do.

“This year, shipments of handheld computers are expected to increase by more than 50 per cent in Canada to approximately 250,000 units,” says Dave Armitage of Evans Research Corporation. “The emergence of wireless technology will transform handheld computers into communication devices which will drive the growth of this market.”

We’ll see. I think it will be a long time before the average computer user needs (or wants) to be be able to run a word processor or a spreadsheet from a device this small, but even Bill Gates has been known to be wrong, He’s the guy who said that 640K of memory “ought to be enough for anybody”.