Can You Upgrade to Pocket PC?

SAN FRANCISCO (05/04/2000) - With a cleaner Windows interface, a Web browser, and PC-like applications, Pocket PC significantly improves on Windows CE devices. But if you already have a palm-size unit, can you upgrade?

Patrick Rady felt he was deceived by Casio Computer Co. Ltd., which he says told him the Cassiopeia E100 and E105 would be "user upgradeable to Rapier" (the code name of Pocket PC). Casio representatives deny the claim. Instead, the company plans to launch a trade-in program this summer.

Cassiopeia E100/E105 users will be able to trade up to the 32MB Cassiopeia Pocket PC. Casio won't give pricing yet.

"The final details have yet to be set," says Gary Shultz, director of the mobile information products division of Casio.

Why can't you just download the new operating system, as some Palm devices can?

"With Pocket PCs, the operating system resides on a chip, not on a hard disk where it can easily be taken off and replaced," says Brian Shafer, marketing manager of Microsoft's mobile device division. Pocket PC upgrades must come as a ROM chip from the hardware vendor. Aside from Casio's promised trade-in program, Compaq offers an upgrade chip, and Hewlett-Packard will give rebates.

"Most consumer electronics don't offer upgrades," Shafer notes. But Windows CE device vendors are offering alternatives.

Pass the Chip

Compaq wins the prize for the most direct upgrade policy: You can upgrade Aero 1500 and 2100 series units with a ROM chip. You can order a $69 Pocket PC upgrade chip for the Aero 1500 series or a $99 upgrade for the 2100 series, says Ben Williams, director of Compaq's Internet products and services group.

"The price difference is because we're offering more memory--24MB--with the 2100."

To install the new chip, you unscrew the back and swap it out, Williams says.

"It's as simple as adding a memory chip."

Compaq and Casio both offer Pocket PC functions on existing Windows CE devices, and plan to release new handhelds this summer. HP's Pocket PCs are all new hardware, so HP doesn't offer an upgrade.

Instead, HP Jornada 430 series owners can get $100 cash back with the purchase of a Jornada 540 series Pocket PC before May 31.

For its part, Microsoft is trying to smooth the transition by making its new OS support existing applications.

The ActiveSync synchronization software that comes with Pocket PCs works with other palm-size PC devices, Shafer says. "And the new Pocket PC software runs existing Windows CE applications happily."

Microsoft offers its Windows Media Player for bundling with Pocket PC devices.

Palm Options

Aficionados of the rival Palm devices have always had some downloadable upgrade options. Palm users can upgrade to the new Palm 3.3 operating system if their device has Flash ROM capability. The new OS is also downloadable by users of Palm III, IIIx, or V units, and by users of IBM Workpad c3 (40X, 40U), 30X, or 20X units.

If you have a Palm IIIe or a Handspring Visor, you're out of luck. Handspring says it has altered the Palm 3.1 operating system to support its Springboard expansion slot and extra applications, so the standard upgrade won't suffice and no alternatives are in the works.

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