Image: h2210
HP's new iPaq - the h2210. Smaller than the 5500 series - but very slightly larger than the 1900 series. They all run on the new Windows Mobile OS.
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msnbc.com

2003 is half over, which means anything in computing still named 2002 is extremely dated. It’s no surprise, then, that the people at Microsoft have been updating their handheld computer operating system, at least in part to remove 2002 from its product’s name.

InsertArt(1938948)MICROSOFT SIMPLIFIED THE operating system’s name, but getting there is a bit complicated. What was “Pocket PC 2002” and was supposed to be “Pocket PC 2003” becomes “Windows Mobile 2003 software for Pocket PC”, “Windows Mobile software for Pocket PC”, or shortened to “Windows Mobile”. Simple, huh? (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The revised OS is more of a tweaking than a full rewrite, which is expected next year. The improved features of the new software include easy Wi-Fi access and advanced support for digital imaging. More specifically it:

Automatically detects and connects to Wi-Fi networks and provides another option for wireless connectivity with native support for Bluetooth.

Enables up-to-date e-mail synchronization through integration with the upcoming Exchange Server 2003 with native support for integrated keyboard devices.

Includes new media and imaging functionality, such as pictures — which allow users to store, edit and display digital photos — and Windows Media Player 9 — which provides higher quality audio and video, improved performance and broadband content streaming capabilities.

Includes native support for the Microsoft .NET Compact Framework, providing an exciting opportunity for enterprise developers.

NEW POCKET PC MODELSA number of Pocket PC and Pocket PC phone makers including Asustek, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Toshiba and ViewSonic announced new models Monday. Plus, a number of new names — Legend Group LTD, JVC, Gateway and Panasonic — will announce their intent to deliver Windows Mobile-based Pocket PCs later this year.

I’ve had a chance to play with a Windows Mobile device, and so far I like what I’ve seen. I’ve been trying the new member of H-P’s iPaq line — the h2210 ($399). This pocket-sized model fits neatly between the ultra-small h1940 ($299) — upgraded to allow things other than memory, such as WiFi cards in its SD slot — and the h5550 ($649) with built-in WiFi and a whopping 128 MB of memory. All new iPaq models have Bluetooth inside as standard equipment.

The h2210 is only a little larger than the diminutive (for a Pocket PC) h1900 series and boasts a Compact Flash slot in addition to the SD card slot. It has a 400MHz XScale processor, 64 MB of RAM, a great color screen and it comes with a neat little case to carry it around in (something left out from the h1900 package to keep the price down). Additionally, the h2210’s cradle has room to charge a second battery.

Before you can do anything meaningful on your Pocket PC, you have to update to version 3.7 of Microsoft’s ActiveSync software, a task that took a mere two minutes to complete. After that, everything I tried with the h2210 seemed to work flawlessly.

I noticed a number of small improvements to the look and feel of the OS, including subtle shading of the Inbox list of e-mails, which makes reading easier than before. At first glance, everything seems a bit more polished.

I would love to tell you how the new OS improves the experience of setting up and using WiFi networks, but when I tried using either of my two 802.11b Compact Flash adapters in the h2210, the new OS didn’t recognize either. I’ll have to wait until the companies release revised drivers for the wireless cards before I can use the new feature. I wish I had chosen a model with built-in WiFi to try. Expect a full report shortly.

By the way, Microsoft will be offering Windows Mobile users a chance to sign-up for 30 days free Wi-Fi access from T-Mobile, Wayport or Boingo. This offer will be good for anyone who purchases a brand new Windows Mobile Pocket PC device, and gives customers a chance to experience the new Wi-Fi software support in Windows Mobile 2003, which automatically detects and easily connects to Wi-Fi networks. The promotion runs for the next two months.

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