I did not realize how significant today was until I fired up Twitter this morning and saw a tweet pointing out that it was ten years ago today that Microsoft launched the Pocket PC during an event at the Grand Central terminal in Manhattan, NY. The date is very important to me because on that date I finished writing my first book, How To Do Everything With Your Pocket PC & Handheld PC. In the picture below you see the cover of that book, along with an iPaq 3600, which was one of the Pocket PCs announced during that event.
The iPaq, made then by Compaq, was the device that made the Pocket PC a hit. What many people don’t know is that Compaq worked with HTC to design that device, which made it the first device that HTC designed for the purpose of running Microsoft’s mobile operating systems. Of course today HTC no longer hides behind larger corporations and they are much more known.
Besides the personal accomplishment of writing my first book, the Pocket PC launch stands to me as a reminder of just how little I know when it comes to success or failure of a mobile device. I remember being in a room on the Microsoft campus in the fall of 1999 when I, along with Todd and a few other Windows CE enthusiasts saw the Pocket PC for the first time. We all were hoping that Microsoft would break away from the Windows/Start Menu metaphor the previous Pocket-sized PCs had, and were very disappointed when we found that Microsoft not only kept the metaphor, but had the audacity to claim they changed it by simply moving the Start button from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen. I don’t think any of us at the time thought the Pocket PC would be as successful as it would become, mainly because there wasn’t enough of a change.
About a month later I was back in Seattle for another event at which the Pocket PC software and some hardware prototypes were shown to the press. It was at that event that I saw the iPaq for the first time. I don’t remember what the other guys thought, but I know that I did not like the iPaq mainly because it did not have a built-in Compact Flash slot. While it was the thinnest of the Pocket PCs, the trade-off is that to expand the device you had to slide the iPaq into a plastic sleeve. You could buy sleeves to add a Compact Flash slot and another one was available for a PC Card slot. I envisioned the need to carry around a bunch of those sleeves in order to use a storage card, and that did not make sense to me.
Again, my initial reaction was proven wrong and the Compaq iPaq went on to be what I think was the best selling of the Pocket PCs. The lessons that I learned from that time was that first reactions can be wrong, which I think is important to keep in mind when looking at Windows Phone 7 and Kin. Besides the lessons that I learned, I have nothing but good memories of the people that I met, some whom have become friends. The Pocket PC launch was not revolutionary on the scale of the Macintosh launch or even the Windows 95 launch, but I think it was an important milestone along the journey that has gotten us to the smartphones that we enjoy today.