Four years ago Palm created the first successful PDA. Today it holds an 80% share of the market for handheld computers. Its most serious competition is a family of devices from various vendors based on the Windows CE operating system. In some ways the competition between these two systems is reminiscent of the earlier Macintosh-Windows battle. Users become familiar with a device and develop strong preferences. This paper will address objective questions like programming and communication interfaces.
The Palm OS was originally designed for a device with 512K of memory and no hard disk. Subsequent models doubled and redoubled available memory until the current generation of devices (IIIxe, Vx, IIIc) have 8M RAM at the same or lower prices than the original model. Although the Palm OS was modified to allow use of larger memory, it retains its original base architecture and processing speed. It is almost impossible for an ordinary user to use anywhere near the full 8M. Windows CE is a scaled down version of the Windows 9x operating system. Just booting the system seems to use up 3M of the RAM, and with Pocket versions of Word, Excel, IE, and (in some models)
Access it is fairly simple to fill a typical 16 or 32M system. CE devices typically have a slot for a plug in "CompactFlash card". The most common use for the card is to add 32 to 128M of non-volatile memory to hold large files as an alternative to disk storage. Although CE appears to be big and sloppy, it is not architecturally constrained by a small memory design. Early versions of CE were unsuccessful because the hardware had not caught up with the design. Today the available processor and memory technology
can support CE competitively with Palm. In subsequent generations of technology, CE may be more flexibly designed to take advantage of additional power.