Windows CE for embedded system

First of all I wasn't sure if I should ask this question here or in the PDA area... so bear with me.

I have developed a number of embedded systems using PC based industrial systems. These have used Win 3.11 and either VB or Delphi to write the program, the results have been good and on the whole the systems have been reliable.

The problem is that Win 3.11 is an old operating system, but it is reasonably compact, most of the systems have a 8mB flash or EPROM disk as the main storage. This means that a port to 32 bit VB/Delphi under Win95/98 is out of the question.

The question is would Windows CE forfill the task? what is required to run Win CE on a standard PC system (100Mhz 486, 8mB flash 8mB Ram, color VGA 640x480x256color)? What development software is available? How would existing applications port from VB/Delphi?

Most of the applications communicate with industrial control equipment using a serial link.

Because I have asked a number of related questions I have allocated 200 points, If you can answer part of it then fine, as before I close the question I may allocate points between more than one contributor.

What I really am looking for is what I need to do to change to Win CE, and if it will be worth while.
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WinCE applications will only RUN on WinCE handhelds. The software can, however, be emulated using the add-on toolkit for VB and VC that comes with VisualStudio 6.

Emulating then, however, required either VC or VB to be installed, which is, again, out of question for your specific scenario.

You cannot "install" WinCE on machines. It either comes already installed on the handheld's ROM or it doesn't.

Besides, since your applications were developed for Win16, they won't run in winCE. You may be able to convert the VB programs to WinCE using the toolkit I mentioned, but forget about the Delphi applications. As a Delphi developer myself, the fact that Borland doesn't care a bit about the WinCE platform upsets me a little.

The first paragraph aboe also describe the only existing development platforms (VB and VC) for WinCE.

You also cannot run regular Win32 software on WinCE machines. I've written an article about this issue, which can be read at:

I wrote that article a while ago. Although I primarily targetted Delphi developers (such as myself), the article ended up better than I expected and gives a pretty wide coverage of Win32 x WinCE technologies and why they are incompatibles.

Unfortunatly there's very little choice for you, Mike. Your best bet is to get VB 6  + the WinCE toolkit and see if the existing VB apps can be easily converted.

There are other options, however, that do not include WinCE, but are a little bit more expensive. I am talking about the handheld devices that run Windows 95 and Windows 98, the subnotebooks. A very good example of this kind of handhelds is the Toshiba Libretto, which is just slightly bigger than a normal WinCE machine, but features a Pentium 233 MMX and runs Win95. Your applications would run on such machines without having to change anything in the code.

You asked if changing to WinCe will be worthwhile. I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't think it is. For once, you'll have to spend a lot of time converting the software to WinCE, not to mention that debugging these applications will be troublesome, since the MS toolkit has troubles emulating hardware I/O. Second, I personally don'tthink the WinCE OS is here to stay. IMHO, it's just a fad and the PalmOS will be taking over pretty soon. The EPOC32 Multitasking OS (made by Psion, Ericsson and a few other industry giants) is also much better than WinCE and is already the favorite in the European market when it comes to OS for handhelds.

Let me know if I can be of further help, Mike.



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MikeDybleAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the info, just one thing really, I am running applications from Flash disks of typically 8mB, and there is no way I am going to be able to fit Win95 + Apps onto something of this size, Win95 is just to bloated. There is no Hard disk on these systems. I wondered if anyone has produced a Win CE operating system for the PC architecture. Even small machines such as the Libretto, (which I use as a portable machine for debugging PLC based systems, as it's the only PC machine that I've found that you can use standing up for long periods) are not really suitable to put in the sort of enviroment that these systems go into. Most of them consist of an LCD display and a sealed membrane or stainless steel keypad, in a sealed enclosure. Usually there is no mouse. From what you've said it looks like I will have to continue with the Win 3.1/Win3.11 systems, as I have managed to get the Win3.1 disk footprint down to below 2mB for this type of application. What I am really looking for is a compact Windows style O/S which will fit into say 4mB, and has a development language such as VB or Delphi, i.e. one where it dosn't take man years to get some stable and acceptable results.
>I wondered if anyone has produced a
>Win CE operating system

WinCE is not open source. Only Microsoft can release WinCE operating systems. Besides, its only done with OEM contracts. Thus, if you want to have a version of WinCE for PCs (x86), then you must have an OEM contract with Microsoft, pay them a few hundred thousand dollars and then work *WITH* Microsoft in order to have the WinCE OS the way you want. BTW, if you do so, you are not allowed to distribute it in medias other than ROM chips.

From what you just said about your OS requirements, I think I got just the thing you're looking for, but it's not Windows compatible. The entire OS has a footprint of exactly 1.44Mb, including support for the Internet. Here's the URL to their site:

Do not forget to download the Demodisk from QNX, which is the entire OS in a single 1.44 MB floppy.


Mike, check this page:

I'll the text there speak for itself!


MikeDybleAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the info - it's got me on the right track
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