March 31, 2004, 10:16 AM — Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday is set to unveil enhancements to the VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) capabilities of Windows CE in the upcoming version 5.0, as well as several partnerships with manufacturers and integrators that will use the platform.
The operating system forms the basis of Microsoft's platforms for embedded, automotive and mobile computing. A lot of vendors want to add VoIP as an application to wireless handhelds and other devices, said John Starkweather, a product manager in Microsoft's Embedded Devices Group. The Redmond, Washington, company plans to announce the VoIP enhancements at the Voice on the Net (VON) conference taking place this week in Santa Clara, California.
In the new version of Windows CE, Microsoft has added multiparty audioconferencing capability, unified messaging and integration with Exchange Server with calendar and contact searching features, according to the company. They complement what has been a simpler set of telephony features built in to CE 4.2.
However, most customers don't adopt CE primarily for its features because they use it as a platform to build their own software, Starkweather said. Most of the improvements are intended to help vendors speed up their development and get their products to market more quickly, he said. Microsoft also offers integration with existing infrastructure, such as Windows Server software.
Microsoft sees VoIP as one application among many that can run on different devices and be offered by service providers to their customers. In order to make money from voice, service providers and software and hardware makers want to add capabilities on top of it, such as videoconferencing and integration with customer relationship management software, Starkweather said.
South Korean consumer electronics maker LG Electronics Inc., Japan's NEC Infrontia Corp. and China's ZTE Corp. are among Microsoft's manufacturer partners that are to be announced Wednesday. Also Wednesday, Microsoft is set to introduce system integrator partners, including Datacraft Asia, Net2Com Ltd. and BSquare Corp., that are using the platform to deploy systems for companies and service providers.
Microsoft also will announce a service provider partner, Vonage Holdings Corp., which is looking to offer its customers "softphone" software based on CE 5.0 to install on devices such as Wi-Fi PDAs (personal digital assistants) that will let them make VoIP calls, Starkweather said.