Windows CE

Definition of Windows CE in The Network Encyclopedia.

What is Windows CE?

Windows CE is a Microsoft Windows–compatible real-time operating system for a broad range of products including personal and handheld computers, terminals, and industrial controllers.

Windows CE is primarily for embedded systems in which the operating system is hard-coded by a vendor into a device’s ROM and for handheld PCs that provide portable messaging and Internet capability.

How Windows CE Works

Windows CE is based on a subset of the standard Win32 API, which means that original equipment manufacturer (OEM) developers can use all of the standard Win32 development tools to create custom-based Windows CE solutions for their Windows CE–based products. Windows CE is a component-based operating system that you can use to create “mix-and-match” operating systems that provide only the functionality needed for an embedded system, thus minimizing the memory requirements of such a system. For example, a Windows CE–based industrial sensor might contain the Windows CE kernel and communication modules but not the graphical user interface (GUI). The available modules include the following:

  • Operating system kernel (32-bit, multitasking, multithreaded, executes in ROM), graphical device interface (GDI), and USER components
  • Device drivers (keyboard, touch panel, notification LED, display, audio, battery, PCMCIA, serial devices, and FAT/FAT32 volumes)
  • Communication components, including support for both wired and wireless local area network (LAN) connectivity, TCP/IP with Windows Sockets, Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP), Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP), Infrared Data Association (IrDA) standards, Telephony Application Programming Interface (TAPI), and so on
  • Windows CE Embedded Shell support, which allows developers to create custom shells for providing a user interface for their CE devices
  • Win32-like registry for storing configuration information

Windows CE is implemented on a specific hardware platform using a thin layer of code between the kernel and the hardware called the OEM adaptation layer (OAL), which isolates device-specific features of hardware from the operating system kernel, enabling developers to ignore specific hardware functionality.

The current version of Windows CE is 2.1; version 3 will soon be released.