Pocket PC upgrades made possible

With a cleaner Windows interface, a Web browser, and PC-like applications, Pocket PC significantly improves on Windows CE devices. But if you already have a palm-size unit, can you upgrade?

Patrick Rady felt he was deceived by Casio, which he says told him the Cassiopeia E100 and E105 would be "user upgradeable to Rapier" (the code name of Pocket PC). Casio representatives deny the claim. Instead, the company plans to launch a trade-in program this summer.

Cassiopeia E100/E105 users will be able to trade up to the 32MB Cassiopeia Pocket PC. Casio won't give pricing yet.

"The final details have yet to be set," says Gary Shultz, director of the mobile information products division of Casio.

Why can't you just download the new operating system, as some Palm devices can?

"With Pocket PCs, the operating system resides on a chip, not on a hard disk where it can easily be taken off and replaced," says Brian Shafer, marketing manager of Microsoft's mobile device division. Pocket PC upgrades must come as a ROM chip from the hardware vendor. Aside from Casio's promised trade-in program, Compaq offers an upgrade chip, and Hewlett-Packard will give rebates.

"Most consumer electronics don't offer upgrades," Shafer notes. But Windows CE device vendors are offering alternatives.

Still, a handheld is a PC. One might expect software updates.