Secure web sites with WM5.0

This week I received my first Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC in the form of the HTC Universal. While admittedly, this is the largest and heaviest Pocket PC Phone (outside of the ruggedized industral units from companies like Symbol), it has more "WOW" factor than any other I've seen.

It looks like a mini version of a convertible Tablet PC, with a landscape keyboard and a "flip-around" VGA resolution screen that can be used in landscape mode with the keyboard, or vertically like a conventional Pocket PC. It also has not one, but two cameras! There's a 1.3M pixel camera on the back (complete with an almost useless LED "flash") and a low resolution camera next to the screen for use in video conferencing.

But so far, the most pleasant surprise for me is that out of the box, the web browser works with many secure web sites that were off limits to previous versions of the Pocket PC (unless you hacked the system registry.)

The problem for the Pocket PC, was that despite the capabilities of the browser to support secure web connections, it would report itself to be an obsolete version of Internet Explorer to the web servers. Certain sites, such as online banking, checked the browser version you use and if you don't have a version with proper security, they won't let you connect.

Since these sites didn't recognize the "Windows CE" platform, they just assumed that you were running an old version of Internet Explorer on a desktop machine, and rejected the attempt to login.

A few programs, such as Tweaks2K2 (www.tweaks2k2.com) allow you to "fool" web servers into thinking that your Pocket PC is really a Windows NT machine running Internet Explorer 5. This works well, but most people won't use such tools. So I was pleased to find that my "unhacked" HTC Universal worked with such sites.

I tested Bank of America's online banking and even paid a bill while having lunch yesterday. I also went to the Holiday Inn Priority Club web site and found that it was fooled about the Pocket PC as well. The Priority Club site is most interesting because it was one of the few sites that recognized the Pocket PC browser. However, while the site did direct you to a versions of their pages specially formatted for PDAs, it didn't allow you to take advantage of their lowest price "internet rates" for reservations. Previously, I used a hacked Pocket PC to make my reservations and get the low prices - once I did this while standing in the lobby of the hotel itself! (The clerk at the desk was very impressed with that little trick.)

Stay tuned for more of my impressions and observations about the HTC Universal.

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