MS PocketPC 2002 kills Hitachi, MIPS support

ARM-only from now on

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Microsoft has dropped support for two of the three processor platforms using the PocketPC operating system. The latest version of the OS, announced yesterday, will run on ARM-based CPUs but not Hitachi's SH-3 or MIPS chips.

Hewlett-Packard immediately ditched the Hitachi processor and flung its arms around ARM. It announced the latest models in its Jornada PDA line yesterday, all powered by 206MHz Intel StrongARM parts. Previous models used the SH-3.

Another PocketPC supporter, Casio, uses MIPS processors in its Cassiopeia PDA, but we expect it to follow HP over to the ARM camp.

Microsoft isn't entirely daft and almost certainly decided which processors to support on the basis of what its customers have already chosen. After all, if it's to beat Palm, it can't afford to piss off its major OEMS by forcing upon them such a major hardware design change.

That said, the move is advantageous to Microsoft, as it allows it to focus its development efforts on a single platform.

And it's done the same before - when it killed off PowerPC and other versions of Windows NT in favour of the x86 build, for example (although in the case of NT, almost no one was using the non-Intel versions).

There's also the fact that more and more PDA makers are turning to the ARM platform. Even Palm is doing it, persuading long-time processor partner Motorola to license ARM technology and bringing on board Intel as a supplier of ARM-based parts for its Palm OS 5 licensees.

PocketPC 2002 adds a number of enhancements - cosmetic changes and software updates, in the main - but the most significant perhaps is the addition of wireless connectivity through Bluetooth and 802.11, joining the platform's support for GSM and other cellular networks. Connecting to servers through a terminal application is a powerful new tool for tech staff. ®


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