Hailing Handhelds

Non-Windows CE-powered handhelds still have a way to go and can't be used for much more than messaging and basic remote access. Windows CE personal digital assistants, naturally, work much better in this regard.

Palm has done a bang-up job of providing software to make sure your Palm synchronizes with Outlook, Notes and any other popular Windows-based messaging platforms. Pretty much any other kind of access is out of the question though, in large part because Palm doesn’t provide anything like a network file sharing client, network printing and so on. However, Palm is a workable platform for remote control, making Terminal Services a network resource that’s potentially open to Palm users. For that matter, many other handheld computers that aren’t powered by Windows CE could potentially use Terminal Services if only an RDP client was available.

I can hear you now: “You’re kidding—Terminal Services on a postcard-sized screen?” I’m not suggesting that it’s ideal, but it’s one way to make specially designed applications available and provide emergency administrative access to remote servers. For better or for worse, Microsoft—and most independent developers, as near as I can tell—agree. As a result, there’s no decent RDP client for the Palm platform.

But let’s forget RDP for a moment. There’s a VNC client available for Palms, VNC/. As shown in the figure, the application even provides a menu to send Windows-specific keystrokes, such as the all-important Ctrl-Alt-Del sequence, to the VNC host. Of course, running VNC on a server opens a number of security concerns. Learn more about VNC for Windows and other platforms at

Citrix, makers of MetaFrame XP, has the cross-platform thing in the bag, so it’s curious that the company doesn’t offer a Palm ICA client. It does, however, offer a Symbian client that runs on certain Nokia phones; and its Linux ICA client runs on Linux-based handhelds such as the Sharp Zaurus series.

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Back to Hailing Handhelds

Talk to Your Phone
What other type of handheld interoperability might you need? If e-mail access from a cell phone comes to mind, you’re in luck. Some phones offer access to POP3 mailboxes, allowing them to access Exchange and other server-based e-mail. Most so-called “connected” phones include a Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) browser, which provides access to specially formatted Web sites. Microsoft’s own Mobile Information Server (MIS) provides Outlook Mobile Access (OMA), which is essentially a WAP version of OWA. OMA works with Exchange 5.5 and later and provides mobile phone users with access to e-mail and contacts.

Other handheld interoperability is pretty much limited to what the handheld’s manufacturer provides. Many mobile phones, for example, can synchronize with Outlook through the use of a special cable and software provided by the phone manufacturer. Other handhelds, like the Sharp Zaurus series, also provide proprietary synchronization software with Outlook and other PIM software.

The VNC Client for Palm OS
The VNC Client for the Palm OS lets you send keystroke sequences remotely to a server.

Communing With CE Devices
Microsoft Pocket PCs, like the popular HP iPaq series, benefit from a scaled-down version of Windows built right in. That means you get a number of fantastic interoperability features right out of the box. For example, Pocket PCs come with miniature versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Their built-in ActiveSync software makes synchronizing your desktop data easy: Just install ActiveSync on your desktop, plug your Pocket PC into its docking cradle, and you’re done.

MIS even includes Server Active-Sync, which lets wireless Pocket PCs synchronize Outlook data directly with an Exchange server. Server ActiveSync is scheduled to be included in the next version of Exchange Server, code-named Titanium.

About the Author

Don Jones is a multiple-year recipient of Microsoft’s MVP Award, and is Curriculum Director for IT Pro Content for video training company Pluralsight. Don is also a co-founder and President of, a community dedicated to Microsoft’s Windows PowerShell technology. Don has more than two decades of experience in the IT industry, and specializes in the Microsoft business technology platform. He’s the author of more than 50 technology books, an accomplished IT journalist, and a sought-after speaker and instructor at conferences worldwide. Reach Don on Twitter at @concentratedDon, or on Facebook at


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