What is the difference between Windows CE, PocketPC and Windows Mobile?

I’ve been asked for many times about the difference between Windows CE and Windows Mobile.

People tend to get confused between windows CE, Pocket PC, Windows Mobile, SmartPhone and other names for the Microsoft mobile platform.

Microsoft Windows CE:


Windows CE is an open, scalable, 32-bit, real-time operating system that can be embedded to build small footprint devices. With Windows CE one can develop robots, industrial controllers, gas station pumps, voting machines, kiosks, POS terminals, video games, medical equipment, digital music players, interactive televisions, Internet appliances, cameras, etc.

Windows CE includes a set of components. Like Lego for older geeks – each device can be built from different components, resulting in a completely unique device.

Most of the CE based devices also include a shell/user interface – but it's not a must, and it doesn’t need to have that Windows look and feel.

The below pictures demonstrate different CE based devices: Psion Teklogix Vehicle-Mount Computer and Citroen Xsara CE multimedia station.

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Microsoft Windows Mobile 5:


In order to create a standard platform for PDAs and cell phones, allowing a common user interface, a familiar experience, a common set of APIs and developer tools – Microsoft developed the Windows Mobile platform.

Windows Mobile is based on Windows CE, and different versions of it implement different CE features.

Now, here is the reason for the confusion: Windows Mobile holds 2 categories: Standard Edition and Professional Edition.

The Standard Edition is the simple version of Windows Mobile (that used to be called Smartphone), it doesn’t have a touch screen and its’ main role is to act as an advanced cellular phone with mail, web, and simple office capabilities.


The Professional Edition (used to be called Pocket PC) relates to more advanced PDAs that come with touch screen. Those devices hold an enhanced version of "pocket" Office, web browser, GPS navigators, and basically tons of available applications. To complete the mess, the professional edition also have a special category of devices with embedded phones, those devices run Windows Mobile Professional - Phone Edition.


The following table presents the different versions of Pocket PC comparing to the different versions of Microsoft Windows Mobile



What used to be called Pocket PC 2003 – is now Windows Mobile Professional. It can come with or without an embedded phone. What used to be called Smartphone is now renamed to Windows Mobile Standard.



Tip for those of you who are not sure how to recognize each version of Windows Mobile:

1. If the start menu is located on top - it's probably the professional edition. If it's in the bottom of the screen - probably standard edition.

2. If you are pushing some buttons on the screen and nothing really happens - try harder. If still nothing happens - you are probably using the standard edition... ;-)

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Anonymous said…
Hi! Thanks for helping to explain these differences. It is handy to understand the newer technologies.
But, how about the older stuff? When I look around for software, they throw in a few other terms which I can't get straight. Like, what's the difference between HPC, PPC and Pocket PC?
Gil Bouhnick said…
HPC is handheld PC which refers to any mobile device I assume.
PPC and Pocket PC are the older names of Windows Mobile - in the touch screen edition, which today is called: "professional edition".
idejuhe said…
hahaha.. i like it.. especially the last tip...
Anonymous said…
you did a Boss work, seems it has saved my several month confusion