The Heller Report: Microsoft’s Pocket PC is in the early stages of reaching the education market

Microsoft’s Pocket PC is in the early stages of reaching the education market

Microsoft, which offers Windows CE as the key competing platform to the Palm OS, focuses its handheld activity for the education market on the Anytime, Anywhere Learning Program. Their Pocket PC and Handheld have joined the laptop as possible solutions, adding “any device” to the vision of ubiquitous computer learning.

Microsoft’s hardware partners offer two kinds of devices using the Windows CE operating system. The Pocket PC is a size comparable to a Palm. The Handheld is a type of mini-PC with a small keyboard, larger than the Palm devices. Both can display a web page, not just selected text or graphics from it. Mary Culinane, Anytime, Anywhere Learning program manager, says that developers are attracted to Windows CE for its clear screen resolution, its processing speed and memory, the ability to stream video, the ability to send email with attachments and a number of other features which Microsoft believes makes the platform more robust than Palm PC. The devices can synchronize data with the desktop, and cards can be added to enable wireless capabilities.

Microsoft also promotes the platform’s ability to grow into new devices. The Tablet PC, for example, uses Windows CE. Now under development, that offering is anticipated to offer desktop style, mobile, wireless computing, though it may not be at a price point that makes it realistic for schools.

Culinane says that she does not see a Pocket PC or Handheld as the ideal device for Microsoft to fully realize its vision of one-to-one computing, the ability to give every student access to educational resources at any time. Instead, she sees it as a companion device that can be a good solution for specific needs. A program in the Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, allows teachers to assess reading skills as they move about the room. And the devices can effectively access resources such as Encarta Class Server. However, writing a ten page paper on a Pocket PC, says Culinane, is not a great use for the technology.

With just a few K-12 and higher education experiments underway, Windows CE activity in the education market is in early stages. Most of the application development to date has been from Microsoft’s Pocket PC group. Now, Culinane is beginning to talk with other developers wishing to build solutions for the market. She says that Microsoft “will take the high road here, working only with offerings that they believe impact learning.

Teacher training on the products is available through the Microsoft Classroom Teacher Network, as well as from partners. Casio, for example, has created a specific curriculum to help teachers integrate their Windows CE Pocket PC device into the classroom. The Anytime, Anywhere Learning Summit, which brings together schools that are focused on one to one solutions, will also offer information on best practices with the devices. Anytime, Anywhere learning conferences take place in February and March (www.Microsoft.com/education/aal/conferences).

COPYRIGHT 2001 Nelson B. Heller & Associates

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group