Microsoft Windows CE: Wikis


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Windows CE
Windows CE brand logo
Company / developer Microsoft Corporation
OS family Windows CE
Source model Closed source (shared source kernel[1])
Latest stable release 6.0 R3 / 2009-09-29
Available language(s) Multilingual
Supported platforms x86, MIPS, ARM, (SuperH up to 6.0 R2)
Kernel type Monolithic kernel
Hybrid kernel
License Microsoft EULA
Website Windows CE

Windows CE (also known officially as Windows Embedded Compact or Windows Embedded CE post version 6.0 [2][3], and sometimes abbreviated WinCE) is an operating system developed by Microsoft for minimalistic computers and embedded systems. Windows CE is a distinctly different operating system and kernel, rather than a trimmed-down version of desktop Windows. It is not to be confused with Windows XP Embedded which is NT-based. Windows CE is supported on Intel x86 and compatibles, MIPS, ARM, and Hitachi SuperH processors.



Windows CE is optimized for devices that have minimal storage—a Windows CE kernel may run in under a megabyte of memory. Devices are often configured without disk storage, and may be configured as a “closed” system that does not allow for end-user extension (for instance, it can be burned into ROM). Windows CE conforms to the definition of a real-time operating system, with a deterministic interrupt latency. From version 3 and onward, the system supports 256 priority levels[4] and uses priority inheritance for dealing with priority inversion. The fundamental unit of execution is the thread. This helps to simplify the interface and improve execution time.

Microsoft has stated that the ‘CE’ is not an intentional initialism, but many people believe CE stands for ‘Consumer Electronics’ or ‘Compact Edition’. Microsoft says it implies a number of Windows CE design precepts, including “Compact, Connectable, Compatible, Companion, and Efficient.”[5] The first version, known during development under the code name “Pegasus”, featured a Windows-like GUI and a number of Microsoft's popular applications, all trimmed down for smaller storage, memory, and speed of the palmtops of the day.

Since then, Windows CE has evolved into a component-based, embedded, real-time operating system. It is no longer targeted solely at hand-held computers[6]. Many platforms have been based on the core Windows CE operating system, including Microsoft's AutoPC, Pocket PC 2000, Pocket PC 2002, Windows Mobile 2003, Windows Mobile 2003 SE, Windows Mobile 5.0, Windows Mobile 6, Smartphone 2002, Smartphone 2003, Portable Media Center and many industrial devices and embedded systems. Windows CE even powered select games for the Dreamcast, was the operating system of the Gizmondo handheld, and can partially run on modified Xbox game consoles.

A distinctive feature of Windows CE compared to other Microsoft operating systems is that large parts of it are offered in source code form. First, source code was offered to several vendors, so they could adjust it to their hardware. Then products like Platform Builder (an integrated environment for Windows CE OS image creation and integration, or customized operating system designs based on CE) offered several components in source code form to the general public. However, a number of core components that do not need adaptation to specific hardware environments (other than the CPU family) are still distributed in binary only form.

Development tools


Visual Studio

Late versions of Microsoft Visual Studio support projects for Windows CE / Windows Mobile, producing executable programs and platform images either as an emulator or attached by cable to an actual mobile device. A mobile device is not necessary to develop a CE program. The .NET Compact Framework supports a subset of the .NET Framework with projects in C#, and VB.NET, but not Managed C++.

CodeGear Delphi Prism, which runs in Visual Studio, also supports the .NET Compact Framework and thus can be used to develop mobile applications. It employs the Oxygene compiler created by RemObjects, which targets the .NET, .NET Compact Framework and Mono. Its command-line compiler is available free of charge.

Free Pascal and Lazarus

Free Pascal introduced the Windows CE port in version 2.2.0, targeting ARM and x86 architectures. Later the Windows CE header files were translated for use with Lazarus, an RAD software package based on Free Pascal. Windows CE applications are designed and coded in the Lazarus IDE and compiled with an appropriate cross compiler.[7]

Platform Builder

This programming tool is used for building the platform (BSP + Kernel), device drivers (shared source or custom made) and also the application. This is a one step environment to get the system up and running. One can also use Platform Builder to export an SDK (software development kit) for the target microprocessor (SuperH, X86, MIPS, ARM etc.) to be used with another associated tool set named below.

Embedded Visual C++ (eVC)

The Embedded Visual C++ tool is for development of embedded application for Windows CE based devices. This tool can be used standalone using the SDK exported from Platform Builder or using the Platform Builder using the Platform Manager connectivity setup.


A port of the open source macro-creation and automation software utility AutoHotkey is available for Windows CE, which allows the construction of macros and simple GUI applications developed by systems analyst Jonathan Maxian Timkang.[8]

Relationship to Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, and SmartPhone

Timeline of Windows CE Development

Often Windows CE, Windows Mobile, and Pocket PC are used interchangeably - in part due to their common origin. This practice is not entirely accurate. Windows CE is a modular/componentized operating system that serves as the foundation of several classes of devices. Some of these modules provide subsets of other components' features (e.g. varying levels of windowing support; DCOM vs COM), others which are mutually exclusive (Bitmap or TrueType font support), and others which add additional features to another component. One can buy a kit (the Platform Builder) which contains all these components and the tools with which to develop a custom platform. Applications such as Excel Mobile/Pocket Excel are not part of this kit. The older Handheld PC version of Pocket Word and several other older applications are included as samples, however.

Windows Mobile is best described as a subset of platforms based on a Windows CE underpinning. Currently, Pocket PC (now called Windows Mobile Classic), SmartPhone (Windows Mobile Standard), and PocketPC Phone Edition (Windows Mobile Professional) are the three main platforms under the Windows Mobile umbrella. Each platform utilizes different components of Windows CE, as well as supplemental features and applications suited for their respective devices.

Pocket PC and Windows Mobile is a Microsoft-defined custom platform for general PDA use, and consists of a Microsoft-defined set of minimum profiles (Professional Edition, Premium Edition) of software and hardware that is supported. The rules for manufacturing a Pocket PC device are stricter than those for producing a custom Windows CE-based platform. The defining characteristics of the Pocket PC are the digitizer as the primary human interface device and its extremely portable size.

The SmartPhone platform is a feature rich OS and interface for cellular phone handsets. SmartPhone offers productivity features to business users, such as email, as well as multimedia capabilities for consumers. The SmartPhone interface relies heavily on joystick navigation and PhonePad input. Devices running SmartPhone do not include a touchscreen interface. SmartPhone devices generally resemble other cellular handset form factors, whereas most Phone Edition devices use a PDA form factor with a larger display.


Screenshot of an alpha build of Windows CE 1.0
Version Changes
1.0 Released in 16 November 1996 [MSCE1].[9 ] Codename "Alder".[10]
  • Devices named "handheld PC" (HPC).[9 ]
2.0 Released in September 1997 [MSCE2].[9 ] Codename "Birch".[10]
  • Devices named "Palm-sized PC".[9 ]
  • Real-time deterministic task scheduling.
  • Architectures: ARM, MIPS, PowerPC, StrongARM, SuperH and x86.
  • 32-bit color screens.
  • SSL 2.0 and SSL 3.0.
3.0 Released in June 2000 [MSCE3].[9 ] Codename "Cedar".[10]
  • Major recode that made CE hard real time down to the microsecond level.
  • Base for the Pocket PC 2000, Pocket PC 2002 and Smartphone 2002.[9 ]
  • Priority levels was increased from 8 to 256.[9 ]
  • Object store was increased from 65 536 to 4,19 million allowed objects.[9 ]
  • Restricted access to critical APIs or restricting write access to parts of the registry.[9 ]
4.x Released in January 2002 [MSCE4].[9 ] Codename "Talisker/Jameson/McKendric".[10]

Driver structure changed greatly, new features added.

  • Base for "Pocket PC 2003".[9 ]
  • Bluetooth support.[9 ][11]
  • TLS (SSL 3.1), IPsec L2TP VPN, or Kerberos.[9 ]
5.0 Released in August 2004.[10] Adds lots of features. Codename "Macallan".[10]
  • Automatic report of bugs to the manufacturer.[12 ]
  • Direct3D Mobile, a COM-based version of Windows XP's DirectX multimedia API.[12 ]
  • DirectDraw for 2D graphics and DirectShow for camera and video digitisation support.[12 ]
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) support.[13 ]
6.x Released in September 2006. Codename "Yamazaki".[10]
  • Process address space is increased from 32 MB to 1 GB.
  • Number of processes has been increased from 32 to 32 768.[14 ]
  • User mode and kernel mode device drivers are possible.
  • 512MB physically managed memory
  • Device.exe, filesys.exe, GWES.exe has been moved to Kernel mode.
  • SetKMode and set process permissions not possible.
  • System call performance improved.[15 ]

CE v3.0 is the basis for Pocket PC 2002. A successor to CE v3.0 is[9 ] "PocketPC [is] a separate layer of code on top of the core Windows CE OS... Pocket PC is based on Windows CE, but it's a different offering." And licensees of Pocket PC are forbidden to modify the WinCE part.[16 ]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Microsoft opens full Windows CE kernel source. Linux Devices' article(Nov. 01, 2006).
  2. ^ Microsoft renames Windows CE, sets CE 6.0 launch date
  3. ^ Windows Embedded Homepage
  4. ^
  5. ^ "The Meaning of "CE" in Windows CE". Q166915. Microsoft. 2002-09-03.;EN-US;Q166915. Retrieved 2006-09-15.  
  6. ^
  7. ^ WinCE port - Lazarus wiki
  8. ^ [1] - AutoHotkeyCE
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Pöhls, Henrich C. (2003-09-05), "Risk Analysis of Mobile Devices with Special Concern of Malware Contamination" (PDF), Diploma Thesis (University of Hamburg): pp. 27,, retrieved 2009-10-24  
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Hall, Mike (2006-09-19). "Windows Embedded Blog: CE 6.0 - why the codename "Yamazaki" ?". MSDN Blogs. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  
  11. ^ Walker, Geoff (2002-01-07). "Windows CE .net — Microsoft's successor to Windows CE 3.0". Pen Computing Magazine. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  
  12. ^ a b c Smith, Tony (2004-03-29). "MS readies WinCE 5.0 preview". The Register. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  
  13. ^ "The History of the PDA" (DOC).   090517
  14. ^ "Introduction to Microsoft embedded technologies - Session 1" (PPT).   090517
  15. ^ Babu, K. Ashok (2006-11-22). "Differences between Windows CE 5.0 and Windows CE 6.0". Retrieved 2009-10-24.  
  16. ^ Smith, Tony (2003-04-16). "Why Pocket PC isn't WinCE". The Register. Retrieved 2009-10-24.  

External links


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