Visual Basic

Developing Applications in Windows CE

I grabbed a beer and settled back down in front of a screen full of Visual Basic code. I'd been working on a killer app and had a few bugs left to find. Behind the project window I could see the news just starting. "Better stop," I thought, "and catch up on what's going on in the world."

My computer is connected to the television, which has a 29-inch screen. It's great for coding because I've finally got enough space for all my windows, and I have the benefit of being able to watch the TV at the same time. This, I tell myself, helps me to concentrate! Since Microsoft Windows CE took off in a big way, a whole load of new appliances have appeared on the market all incorporating Windows CE technology. My TV is just one example. Windows CE has the ability to address quite a few gigabytes of memory and the manufacturers have taken advantage of this by putting video memory in the actual television set; the 3-D video card is also built in. This means that I don't have to have these components stuffed into my PC. The processor and other components are still inside the PC case-the TV is just an I/O device that happens to have a large screen, plenty of RAM, and loads of disk space. The latter comes in handy when I use the Internet functionality built into the Windows CE operating system.

I have lots of other Windows CE devices-a stereo, an intelligent oven that can be programmed with menus on a CD-ROM. But my favorite device is my radio alarm clock. I'm really bad at getting up in the morning, and this little gadget lets me program any sequence of events, such as turning the radio on for half an hour, then chiming every 20 minutes until I get fed up and finally get out of bed. All of this was possible using conventional technology, but when Windows CE came out, the common platform was a real incentive for manufacturers to make all those devices that were perhaps too expensive to justify building before. After all, who in their right mind would take on developing a stereo with speech recognition? Oh well, it's getting a bit late now. I think I'll try out the roast lamb program in my programmable oven. It's just a shame the oven can't prepare the ingredients as well!

OK, so I don't really use my TV as a computer screen and I don't have all those gadgets-I just made it all up. But I do predict that in five years these sorts of gadgets will be commonplace. Windows CE has the potential to create a market in which affordable electronic devices can be built to cater to any need (well, almost!), so watch this space.