CES - Microsoft launches CE .Net, wireless technology

By Douglas F. Gray, IDG News Service |  Operating Systems

Microsoft Corp. unveiled a new version of its Windows CE operating system and previewed a set of upcoming home networking technologies, code-named "Mira", on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

In a keynote speech Monday night, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates was due to unveil Windows CE .Net, the successor to Windows CE 3.0. The new operating system adds support for the Bluetooth and 802.11x wireless connectivity technologies and is designed for devices ranging from handheld PCs to retail point-of-sale systems, said Aubrey Edwards, director of Microsoft's embedded and appliance platforms group.

Gates was also expected to detail Mira, a set of technologies that will allow users, for example, to detach a flat touch-screen display from a PC and use it to access the PC from as far as 150 feet away, according to Microsoft. The special display will communicate with the PC using 802.11x. Mira-enabled devices are expected to be available from manufacturers including ViewSonic Corp. in the fourth quarter of 2002.

The Windows CE .Net operating system includes the .Net Compact Framework, a software platform that allows developers to build applications that can access so-called Web services from other computers over the Internet. At the heart of the operating system is the ability to use XML (Extensible Markup Language), which allows computers to easily share data. The framework supports the Visual Basic .Net and Visual C# .Net languages for application developers.

Microsoft also shrank the core of the operating system to 210K bytes, compared to 400K bytes required by CE 3.0, Edwards said, meaning the software can run on smaller devices that have less memory.

Windows CE .Net can run on a variety of processors, including x86 processors and Intel Corp.'s StrongARM and upcoming XScale architectures, as well as chips from Hitachi Ltd. and other vendors. CE .Net also features Internet Explorer 5.5 and Windows Media 8.

Device makers including Motorola Inc., Hitachi Ltd. and Casio Computer Co. Ltd. said they plan to use the Windows CE .Net operating system in upcoming products.

In a related announcement, Casio said it will offer an upgrade program, allowing users of its Cassiopeia Pocket Manager BE-300 to upgrade to CE .Net for US$29 beginning in April, said Scott Nelson, product manager for Casio's mobile information products division.

Casio expects 40 percent to 50 percent of consumers to upgrade to the new operating system. It expects about 90 percent of corporate users to upgrade, Nelson said.

Windows CE .Net with Platform Builder is available through distributors for a promotional price of $995, while Windows CE .Net Emulation Edition, is available as a free download from http://www.microsoft.com/embedded/.

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