Saturday, July 22, 2006

Framework Incompatibility Proven

A few days ago I made a post about a problem my boss and I discovered when running a SmartDevice project's binary on our desktop PC's. Our understanding is the .NET compact framework and full framework are supposed to be 100% compatible, so SmartDevice applications will run on desktop operating systems. This seems to be true until you host a web browser control in the SmartDevice project, and then you run into issues relating to the process threading model.

While we suspected the problem was an incompatibility, we couldn't' be sure because we didn't have a Windows CE device on which to test the application. The problem didn't occur in the PocketPC emulator that shipped with VS - but that isn't a guarantee the problem won't occur on an actual device (although it is pretty good circumstantial evidence).

A friend of my owns an HP iPAQ running the PocketPC 2003 SE version of Windows CE, and today he allowed me to borrow it for some testing. I created a sample SmartDevice project, which consisted of a single form hosting the mobile version of the web browser control with it's URL set to the Microsoft home page.

I compiled the application and tried to run the binary on my development PC. The application crashed with an unhandled exception, when creating the WebBrowser control, stating the control can only be hosted in single threaded apartments (which doesn't seem to be possible in compact framework applications).

I then installed the compact framework 2.0 SP1 on the iPAQ, downloaded the program and ran it. The program not only started and displayed the form successfully, but the WebBrowser control displayed the Microsoft home page after a few seconds.

So it seems you cannot be guaranteed SmartDevice projects will run on both desktop operating systems and devices. I've posted this problem on the Visual Studio Feedback site, but haven't got a response yet. Which leaves the question, how do you easily develop applications that will run on both platforms ?

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