Liliputing reader John Hogg wrote in to let me know about yet another Windows CE-based mini-computer on the market. UK online retailer Argos is selling a netbook-shaped machine, but instead of Linux or Windows XP it runs Windows CE and comes with a word processor, spreadsheet, windows media player, and 15 language translator.

I’m a bit wary of the fact that there’s little info on the product page and that the company claims “No installation needed, all software preloaded and ready to use!” That kind of claim (with an exclamation point, no less!) seems to indicate that there might not be a ton of third party software available for this machine’s combination of CPU and screen resolution.

The unnamed computer measures 22.5cm x 16.4cm x 3cm or roughly 8.9″ x 6.5″ x 1.2″. It has an 8 inch TFT LCD display, 400MHz Samsung CPU, 512MB of RAM, 1GB of flash memory, a MMC/SD reader, and 2 USB ports. It takes a 1500mAh 7.4 volt battery and is supposed to get about 3.5 hours of battery life. Argos is charging £199.99 or roughly $350, which seems a bit steep at a time when you can pick up an Acer Aspire One netbook for less money than that.

Companies have been pumping out light-weight clamshell devices using Windows CE for over a decade now, although there’s been a bit of a dry spell over the last few years. Is the success of netbooks like the Asus Eee PC leading to a resurgance? Recently we’ve seen several signs pointing to a definite maybe. First there’s the Cuol Book, another Windows CE-based machine available in the UK. Then there’s the fact that 3K and perphaps other companies putting out their own versions of the Razorbook 400 will soon be releasing a model running Windows CE instead of Linux. Finally, Quarta plans to release software that will let you load the light-weight Microsoft operating system on machines that are built to handle full desktop OSes like Windows XP and Linux, including the Acer Aspire One and Lenovo IdeaPad S9.

While there are certainly some advantages to Windows CE, including longer battery life and instant on/off features, the OS can’t handle full desktop apps like Firefox or OpenOffice.org. Still, if a company would release a good Windows CE-based device for about half the price of your typical netbook (about $150 seems fair), I’d certainly think about picking one up.

Thanks John!

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12 replies on “Will the netbook revolution lead to a rise in Windows CE handhelds?”

  1. I’ve owned a large variety of Windows CE devices, older Pocket PCs and a newer Windows Mobile smartphone. Just from my experiences, I wouldn’t describe any of these devices as stable or reliable in the same way that a Windows XP machine is. Part of the problem may have been that a lot of these devices relied on battery backed up RAM rather than flash memory. Also, I agree with Brad about the pricing … For anyone to seriously consider one of these it’d have to be half the price of a low-end netbook.

    1. I think the newer WM devices with flash memory are much more stable than the ones which relied on battery powered RAM. Also, some of the newer utilities like SKTools make it easier to keep them running smoothly. With it, you can even boot in protected mode, remove malfunctioning software, and avoid a hard reset.

      1. In a lot of WM devices a lot of instability was actually the CPU tried to run the WM side and the Phone side at the same time and the phone side was not part of the WM OS it was somthing the manufacturer implemented.

        these days there is often a processor core to handle the phone side of things and the arm core is left to get on with WM. though in these netbook devices there is no such problem as the CPU handles the OS alone.

        Most of the raw CE devices of days gone by rely on battery ram still (my smartbook does). I do agree though a large flash drive to install files and apps to would be an improvement over sharing ram between apps and storage.

        I look forward to seeing some of these devices in the flesh and hopefully some reviews.

        John

        1. My HP iPAQ 2795 lacks a phone and has a fairly respectable amount of RAM and ROM; also, I haven’t overloaded it with software, so it’s been pretty stable. It’s rarely crashed, but on a few occasions, the battery has inexplicably run down earlier than it should. I’ve never had to do a hard reset.

          My wife’s phone with WM PPC has weaker RAM and ROM and more software and has required a hard reset a couple of times. So these experiences bear out what you say 🙂

  2. Im suprised nobody runs Windows FLP or XPe on netbooks.
    Makes perfect sense to me.

  3. Are we going to be seeing Windows 3.1 soon on these machines?

    Xp is about 8 year olds, now its the aptly named WInCe?

    Windows CE/Mobile is about 12% of the smartphone market. waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay behind Symbian (60%) and is considered to be third or fourth rate at best.

    So yeah, I guess it would make sense in a bizarro world.

    >Still, if a company would release a good Windows CE-based device for about half >the price of your typical netbook (about $150 seems fair), I’d certainly think about >picking

    I know there are Linux on Mips and ARM so this wouldnt be a stretch but then why couldnt other companies jumo in at 150$ price point with Linux then which you can customize at will with a variety of lightweight UI’s?
    Your statement makes it seems that a 150$ machine is only possible for the Wince.
    Its not.

    The Acer One SHOULD be somewhere around 200$ (it was 299$ this week) eventually and I think we will see the market go south with sub-200$ models as well as north with 11 inche models in the 800-900$ range.

    The netbook is turning one this month (Im using the EEE launch date) and its been a spectacular ride (and much maligned by the media). I hope you do something to celebrate it.

    1. Why even say will we returning to win 3.1? CE5 is not as old as XP. CE is stable (it is used in all sorts of industrial, consumer, SatNav & PNA etc. type devices.

      It offers instant on/off, It can be synced to a desktop PC (with an Xp netbook this is a lot harder and not an automatic synchronisation to you main desktop machine).

      OS is in ROM so you can forget worrying about having to reload the OS or a virus taking it out (very usefull in a kids PC as kids seem to have a habbit of killing OS installations).

      Do you use Windows CE devices? No not WM or PPC etc. actual Windows CE devices like the Jornada 720, NEC900 or 900c, Smartbook G138? If not why do you feel the need to slate devices that use CE?

      Yes it is not a full dektop OS and no it will not run windows XP binary files but it does offer a number of plus points that for some people can be very useful.

      I agree £199 is too expensive but I expect we will see price drops and TBH if it is a convertable tablet design I can’t think of any other similarly priced devices.

      I use Windows CE all the time and am looking for a new mini laptop like device to increase performance a little over my Smartbook G138 (though it is very nippy on the web – it will also open a 2Mb pdf file in considerablly less than 1 second with pdf viewer software closed where an XP machine takes quite a bit longer).

      If you need a light machine for keeping contacts and appointments, browsing, email and some video/mp3 duties then CE is perfect and hopefully these new devices will stir some development as well.

      I agree it would be great to see a Linux option on these (maybe CE in rom but an option to boot Linux from a memory card or SSD as a dual boot would be superb).

      John

      1. If the price continues to fall, and if I could get compatibility with my Windows Mobile software, I would consider one for times when all the netbook features are not needed, as an e-reader for my TomeRaider books, light word processor, for email, aerial photos and maps on the free maps4pda, etc, and as a toy.

        I would love to be able to dual boot small damn linux, puppy, knoppix or the like.

        1. A lot of WM software will run out of the box or can be made to run quite easilly.

          I run a fair bit of PPC/WM software on my Smartbook G138 (Opera 8.6 for one thing). I have also made the GPS navigation software Route 66 version 8 (for WM) run on the smartbook so it is likely a lot can be made to run. http://www.hpcfactor.com/forums is a good resource for help making apps run (but with the number of new CE 5 devices I would hope a number of companies will re-compile for CE 5 in addition to WM (would likely need no changes to source just thrown through the compiler again).

          I think Tomeraider already exists for CE. Another intresting application is TCPMP (open source media player Xvid, DIVX, MPEG4, H.264, AC3, MP3 etc. etc.), For email Qmail3, again free, is superb (with full HTML mail and secure mail support).

          If you do buy one (I likely will buy one as well if they drop below £140ish or less) then do pop by hpcfactor and let us know what you think and get advice if any WM programs will not run.

          1. Thanks, I’ll keep this in mind and also go back and print out a couple of earlier threads about this to keep on file. Right now I’m in the market for a netbook and will likely get it while waiting for the CE device prices to fall.

    2. >Are we going to be seeing Windows 3.1 soon on these machines?

      Now there’s a great idea–I could get back the *real* flying toasters and stained glass screen savers of the early ’90s… They never have run right on these new-fangled machines 😉

  4. And if you look at the Argos website the picture shown there seems to indicate this device has a hinge that can flip the screen for use in tablet mode.

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