Handheld PC

What Does Handheld PC Mean?

A handheld PC (HPC) is a lightweight, compact computer that runs on Microsoft’s Windows CE (WinCE). Its required specifications that call for a larger screen and keyboard differentiate it from other small devices, such as the Palm PC, Pocket PC and smartphone.

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Techopedia Explains Handheld PC

The following are features of a HPC:

  • A screen supporting at least 480×240 resolution
  • A keyboard
  • A PC card slot
  • Use of read-only memory (ROM)
  • Wireless or wired connectivity options
  • The device must be bundled with integrated original equipment manufacturer (OEM) applications.

While the specs of a typical HPC hint at functionality similar to a standard laptop, most devices of this class were used mainly for its personal digital assistant (PDA) capabilities. The device was often used for storing contacts, organizing schedules, note taking, simple calculations, quick word processing, instant messaging and with wireless connectivity, email exchange and Web browsing.

Launched in 1996, the HPC found its market with businesses and individuals in search of mobility. However, Microsoft stopped HPC development in 2000, opting to focus efforts on Windows Mobile – the platform for Pocket PCs and smartphones.

Prior to the HPC’s official release, several devices fulfilled the specifications of a handheld PC, even though they ran on DOS-compatible platforms. These were the Atari Portfolio (1989), Poqet PC (1989) and Hewlett Packard’s HP 95LX (1991).

Subsequently released handheld PCs include the NEC MobilePro 900c, HP 320LX, HP Jornada 720 and Vadem Clio. Today, devices that run Windows CE with HPC hardware specs but are not equipped with a keyboard are known as Windows CE Tablet PCs or simply "tablet devices."

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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.