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Windows CE is a distinct operating system and kernel, rather than a trimmed-down version of desktop Windows.
— Wikipedia's Windows CE entry.

The cited source for that sentence in Wikipedia is a long technical description of the Windows CE bootstrap process, that doesn't directly explain how or why this is not a trimmed down version of desktop windows.

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migration rejected from cs.stackexchange.com Mar 3 at 8:08

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closed as off-topic by Raystafarian, Journeyman Geek, terdon, Indrek, Tog Mar 3 at 8:08

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It means that applications that are built for standard Desktop versions of windows (ie, NT, 2000, XP, etc) will not run on CE (and visa-versa). –  MaQleod Mar 3 at 2:23
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This question appears to be off-topic because it is about interpreting an English sentence, not a computer issue. –  terdon Mar 3 at 4:57
    
It is sad to see that a question about operating system design is off-topic for computer scientists. Operating system design and implementation, including case studies and comparative analysis, was once considered a core part of computer science. This question has been posted to multiple stack-exchanges, though. –  JdeBP Mar 3 at 7:03

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Windows CE is a distinct operating system and kernel, rather than a trimmed-down version of desktop Windows.

The kernel is the very core of an operating system - it's what's actually running the computer, more or less. Operating system typically means the kernel plus the surrounding support applications and libraries available with it.

In so far as Windows is concerned, you've historically had three types of kernels, and thus three general types of Windows:

  • The NT kernel, released as part of Windows for Workgroups 3.11 initially, then part of NT 4.0 Workstation/Server, Windows 2000, XP, Vista, 7, and 8/8.1.
  • The 9x kernel, released as part of Windows 95, 98, and ME (it may have been part of older Windows releases such as 3.11 and previous)
  • The CE kernel, released to device manufacturers as part of a kit to customize for portable and small devices.

Essentially, these are three different operating systems. There are common APIs between the three, so it's possible depending on what APIs are used in your program that you may only need to change little to get an application working, for example, both on 9x and NT. You also may need to change a lot, drop some features, or redevelop your application entirely. One example is that NT supports NTFS (and file permissions) whereas 9x and CE do not.

If you have an existing application you want to run under CE that already runs under NT, you'll need to port it, much as you would have to do to get a Windows application running under Linux or OS X.

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It means it was developed as its own product, rather than being a branch of an existing windows version.

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