Sooner or later most of us will come into the situation to think about a possible upgrade of the old Pocket PC hardware from Pocket PC 2002 to Pocket PC 2003 since I'm sure many OEMs will offer an OS upgrade (one of the strength of today's Pocket PC platform over other PDA platforms).
But as it is a new license, like upgrading your PC from Windows 2000 to Windows XP in most cases you wont get it free of charge, I'm also sure so the question is - is it worth?
I'm happy enough to use Pocket PC 2003 for some weeks now and so I might can assess it today, even if Pocket PC 2003 was released today.
First of all, and that's just my personal opinion, upgrades are worth in most cases; so I even enjoyed the upgrade from Windows 98 to Windows Me that days as I had the feeling it gave me more features and functions. Same, 1 1/2 year ago with the upgrade from Pocket PC to Pocket PC 2002 which was a milestone in my personal opinion, even if both - 2000 and 2002 - used Windows CE 3.0 as underlying core while Pocket PC 2003 comes with a new core - Windows CE .Net 4.2.
The benefit of Windows CE 4.2 is that it includes a lot of functions like a better wireless integration which means for you a smoother integration of Bluetooth, W-LAN and other functionalities.
However, as you can see on the video preview, the GUI (Graphical User Interface) hasn't changed that much like with the Windows Me to Windows XP update. Something many of you might expected was getting a more XP styled PDA version now. No, and I think Microsoft was right with that decision, the changes was made pretty gently that new as well as old Pocket PC users will still feel very familiar with that version.
So the changes are more detailed and specific like the Connection Manager. While the overall idea of the Connection Manager was a good one, I never became familiar with it, not really. Because of the deeper wireless integration in Pocket PC 2003 now also the Connection Manager required a change so now it includes also facilities for W-LAN and even Bluetooth which means in fact that it might becomes the unique application for all your communication settings, not like before where you had to deal with the Connection Manager for Dial-up connections and network settings while you had to use a different application/driver to configure your wireless adapter and another one for your Bluetooth functionalities. Now, the "new" Connection Manager handles all this stuff which is great.
Another change are the improved Pocket PC applications itself (keep in mind, that Windows CE is the underlying OS only which can be licensed by everybody to add a complete new and own GUI on top. So Pocket PC is nothing different than that one office at Microsoft licensed Windows CE .Net from another office to add their own GUI on top). So the Inbox includes Signatures now - often requested and something we've waited for for a long time (even if I still prefer to use OutboxBuddy from my Italian pal Giovanni which provides more flexibility and functions) or the animated GIF support of Pocket Internet Explorer.
Another important fact of Pocket PC 2003 is the speed! While Pocket PC was good enough for StrongARM powered devices, it had some problems with XScale devices. I wouldn't say it was the fault of the OS since there was also a lot of crappy developed, non XScale optimized, programs out there but fact is that the new Window CE .Net is better optimized for XScale support.
"To upgrade or not? This is still the question"
A clear YES! If your device OEM offers upgrade kits, go for it. Pocket PC 2003 is simply better, faster, more stable, feature richer than all Pocket PC versions before. Specially if you have Pocket PCs with inbuilt wireless facilities like Bluetooth or W-LAN, Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC (the official name) is a must have; if not - it's worth anyway to upgrade!
I for sure will upgrade as much Pocket PCs as possible!
Cheers ~ Arne