Microsoft has ended support for Windows CE, an operating system you probably thought was already dead, if you knew it had ever existed in the first place. Initially developed to bring a simple operating system with a Windows-like start menu, taskbar, and desktop to small computers including handheld systems in the late 90s and early 00s, Windows CE (also known as Windows Embedded CE or Windows Embedded Compact) has also been used for industrial and medical devices.

But the last major release was Windows CE 2013, and Microsoft is no longer offering extended support for that operating system… but the company will continue to “allow license sales… until 2028” and notes that existing devices will be able to continue running the operating system indefinitely.

NEC MobilePro 900 (via /u/beepbeeplookout)

I got my first taste of Windows CE more than 20 years ago when I picked up my first HP Jornada and NEC MobilePro mini-laptops, which were by then a few years old and selling for 1/10th of their original prices on eBay.

These tiny laptops included mobile versions of Microsoft apps including Word and Excel, which made them excellent devices for taking notes on the go. And as a young journalist at the time, they helped me compensate for the fact that I had horrible handwriting, by allowing me to jot down notes while sitting in Philadelphia City Council meetings.

But it wasn’t long before I found the limitations of Microsoft’s stripped-down operating system to be frustrating, and started experimenting with JLime, a Linux distribution designed as a replacement for Windows CE on those devices. It wasn’t great either, but those experiences helped set me on the path to founding Liliputing a few years later.

So I’ll probably always have a soft spot for Windows CE, as well as the Pocket PC software that grew out of it, which powered some of my first handheld devices including Compaq Aero and Dell Axim PDAs. Pocket PC eventually became Windows Mobile… which eventually became dead.

And now that Microsoft’s desktop operating systems including Windows 10 and Windows 11 are compatible with small, low-power computers including models with ARM-based processors, ultra-compact bodies, and small screens, it’s not like there’s really much need for a separate operating system like Windows CE anymore.

But still, as soon as I realized Windows CE wasn’t quite dead quite yet, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that it’s almost dead.

via The Register 

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  1. good keyboard. wide screen
    why not creating similar device (Sony Vaio P Pocket models)
    or small UX-50 from sony
    good keyboard no mouse, and meybe no html, for small device

  2. Ahh, the time when devices where meant to increase productivity of people who are already productive (like, doing business). Funny, these $1000 devices that would serve owner few years were considered too expensive back then, but now people pay $1k for a new iPhone every 2 years or so to snap pictures for instagram and doomscroll feeds (so, been counterproductive). Inflation must be considered, but in fact all PDAs I’ve owned were $300-400 range that puts them in $800 range now.

  3. I recently looked into getting Pinephone with the keyboard attachment and was surprised to find out that the PinePhone has a ridiculously short battery life. It seems to be a problem of mobile Linux.

    1. It’s really a problem of using processors manufactured on planar lithography machines, so they’re not getting any smaller than 14nm; but they don’t have a lot of options, everything else has too many requisite proprietary drivers, which is a problem with how vendors handle ARM.
      But at least the keyboard attachment has its own battery.

      1. That’s why we need to see RISC-V going mainstream. It can be the most useful move to normalize GNU Linux smartphones and further proves the point that smartphones can indeed be a viable PC replacement. If they relying on ARM, it won’t be growing any bigger soon.

  4. Windows CE and Windows Mobile was also my introduction into mini-computing. I had an early Compaq iPAQ model, and later an HP iPAQ when HP took over the brand.

    I desperately wanted that NEC Mobilepro 900, but they were selling for well over $1000 here in Canada. After that the OQO took my attention, and I’m really glad I never bought one.

    I really wish the industry would go back to those mini laptops (palmtops). GPD and friends had a good run, but their product were poor quality. I hope some major PC manufacturers get into that concept in the near future.

  5. I had a Jordana PocketPC. It was terrible. The SDK was an old desktop sdk that was repurposed. So were all the tools. It was obsolete when it hit the stores.

  6. I loved all of these Windows CE / Pocket PC / Palm / etc. devices. The individuality in design was amazing. Each manufacturer tried to out-do the other with cool designs. Sony was a stand-out with their Palm devices and HP made some great looking Windows CE & Palm PC devices.

    Now, mobile devices are all just rectangles running iOS or Android.

    1. I really miss the wide keyboard & wide screen from factor you’d see on many of those. Not great for web browsing or whatever, but better for typing than a narrow keyboard with a taller screen. Do any modern devices have that sort of form factor?

      1. The most recent device with this kind of concept was the Gemini PDA, which ran Android. It was inspired by the Psion devices.

        You’re right, devices like this don’t really work anymore, because everything is so web-based these days, and most apps/services are “content wall” style services, which favour screens with more vertical height.

      2. There are a few devices out there that basically run a phone in landscape mode over a keyboard, but they’re evidently not popular enough to have good support. You can find a few of them out there, but they’ll all be made by companies with no other products and often years-long delays in manufacturing them. Of these, the only one I think you can buy right now is the PinePhone with a keyboard attachment that turns it into a minilaptop, but then you have to deal with the software problems. While you should technically be able to run a desktop Linux version and ignore the phone parts, it’s still going to have more problems than most consumer electronics.