eMbedded Visual Tools vs. Platform Builder: The Basics


Depending on what you want to do with Windows CE you need either the eMbedded Visual Tools (EVT) or the Platform Builder (PB). Each tool is designed to solve a different task. While the Platform Builder is mainly used by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to "build" new device platforms like the Pocket PC, the EVTs are targeted at developers of applications for those platforms.

Applies to:
   Microsoft Windows Powered Pocket PC 2000
   Microsoft eMbedded Visual Tools
   Platform Builder

Platform Builder 3.0

As mentioned before OEMs use the Platform Builder to port the Windows CE operating system to their custom hardware. Pocket PC, Handheld PC, Palm-size PC, or Auto PC are device platforms defined by Microsoft and created with Platform Builder. Windows CE supports a variety of CPUs and a great variety of system components.

Click here for larger image

Figure 1: The Platform Builder 3.0 IDE (Integrated Development Environment).

An OEM can use the Platform Builder to select the desired components, write device drivers, and then create the perfect operating system for his or her device. Many embedded devices in industries like automotive, industrial automation, and telecommunication are already using Windows CE without the end-user even realizing that Windows CE is the core operating system. Included with the Platform Builder are each and every component that is licensable on Windows CE 3.0 for all supporting CPUs, making the Platform Builder version 3.0 the biggest Microsoft product, size-wise (over 10 gigabytes on 14 CDs). For more information, you can read this very detailed white paper on Platform Builder.

eMbedded Visual Tools 3.0

The large community of ISVs (independent software vendors) uses the eMbedded Visual Tools to create applications with either eMbedded Visual Basic or eMbedded Visual C++. These applications will run on the platforms created by the OEMs. The EVTs cannot be used to write drivers or make any changes to the platform, but instead allow developers to write additional components and applications to run on the Windows CE platform.

Figure 2: The eMbedded Visual C++ IDE (Integrated Development Environment). Click on thumbnail for larger image.

The eMbedded Visual Tools require a Windows CE SDK for the particular device platform to be able to compile and download the application to the platform. This SDK can be exported out of the Platform Builder once the OEM has finished the adaptation of Windows CE to its hardware. The eMbedded Visual Tools ship with three SDKs: the Pocket PC, Handheld PC Professional and the Palm-size PC. By importing additional SDKs from OEMs the experience and know-how you gather writing for those platforms can be leveraged to any custom OEM platform running Windows CE.

For those who want to know more, I recommend that you read the complete EVT data sheet.

Comparison of PB3 and EVT3...

To summarize the differences between PB and EVT here is a table of the most important differences between the two tool sets.

Feature Platform Builder 3.0 EMbedded Visual Tools 3.0
Target User OEMs (original equipment manufacturer — also known as the "hardware guys") ISVs (independent software providers — also known as the "software guys")
Driver Development Yes No
Application Development Limited — Basically for OS components Yes
Visual Basic Support No Yes
Size 10 GB on 14 CDs or 1 DVD 300 MB on 1 CD
Requires SDKs No Yes
Requires Hardware Yes Depending on platform. Platforms defined by Microsoft ship with Emulator (Palm-size PC, H/PC Pro, and Pocket PC).
Can Export/Create SDKs Yes No
Supported CPUs All Windows CE CPUs Depending on SDK
Supported Windows CE version Windows CE version 3.0
  • For 2.10 use ETK 2.10
  • For 2.11 use ETK 2.11 plus Enhancement Pack
  • For 2.12 use PB 2.12

(ETK=Embedded Toolkit)

Windows CE 2.0 and higher, with corresponding platform SDK
Use to Write Apps for Pocket PC No Yes
White Papers Windows CE 3.0 eMbedded Visual Tools
Cost An upgrade for PB 2.12 to 3.0 is free. The full version costs $2,999. Free (shipping costs apply)
Where to Buy Contact Microsoft or your local Windows CE System Integrator.


Most of the developer community will work with the eMbedded Visual Tools and will never deal with Platform Builder. Since Platform Builder requires a much different skill set and a lot of specific hardware knowledge, I recommend that you only look for PB if you really have to. I hope you find useful the information I've provided here.