Bsquare announces .NET reference design

Bsquare, a provider of Windows embedded technology solutions and professional services, has announced a reference design for a Windows CE .NET handheld.

The Bsquare Power Handheld has a 640 x 480 TFT colour screen, retractable QWERTY thumb-board and integrated GPRS voice and data connectivity. It uses Intel’s XScale processor, running at speeds of up to 400 Mhz, and has 64 Mb of RAM. There is also an SD card expansion slot. The reference design is aimed at manufacturers who want to target the corporate market. Running a full suite of Microsoft productivity, communications and PIM applications, the Power Handheld will be capable of accessing traditional web services, sending and receiving voice calls and integrated management of wireless messaging services. It also includes Bsquare’s remote management technology, enabling devices to be updated from a central server.

“Our Power Handheld reference design allows carriers to unlock ARPU by offering their enterprise and mobile professional customers the best mobile data application experience,” said Bill Baxter, President & CEO of Bsquare. “Now any carrier or OEM can leverage the latest Intel and Microsoft technologies, and offer its customers a truly integrated next-generation wireless handheld device. Our reference design supports their efforts.” Todd Warren, general manager of the Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group at Microsoft Corp, added: “Bsquare’s new Power Handheld reference design showcases some of the most powerful and rich capabilities of Windows CE .NET. Bsquare took full advantage of the wide range of technologies found in Windows CE .NET to deliver an innovative and feature-rich user experience, including support for multimedia functionality and networking capabilities.”


When Microsoft first introduced Windows CE in 1997, it was essentially a scaled-down version of its desktop operating system, Windows 95. It ran on clamshell handheld computers with large, greyscale screens, QWERTY keyboards and pen interfaces. Sales were tiny and almost all Microsoft’s manufacturing partners abandoned the specification within 18 months. Bsquare, a staunch supporter of Windows CE since those early days, appears to be revisiting this ill-fated format.

The Power Handheld is essentially a version of the Handheld PC specification updated to relfect the priorities of today’s enterprise markets. The ability to access proper web services in full colour is attractive and the integrated GPRS connectivity is a sensible addition. It would also benefit from integrated Wi-Fi, but the power requirements were probably too great for this relatively small form-factor.

The real difficulty here is that there is no sign of increasing demand for this category of device. Most enterprise users are happy to trade keyboard and screen size for the advantages of the palm form-factor. Those that do need real document editing capabilities on the move still opt for a true laptop. HP has the limited demand in this category covered with its 720 palmtop, while many Psion users continue to swear by the British company’s now discontinued range of handhelds. Bsquare will be hard pushed to attract interest from anything but vertical market players.

Originally published by PMN Mobile Industry Intelligence, the subscription-based analysis and insight platform founded by Marek Pawlowski.

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