In a move that takes Microsoft Corp. one step closer to realizing its .Net vision of ubiquitous access to Web-based content and services, the company is gearing up for the January launch of the next version of its Windows CE operating system, Windows CE .Net.
Formerly code-named Talisker, Windows CE .Net is an embedded operating system designed to be used in mobile devices, such as smart phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants), Eddie Wu, senior director of Microsoft's Embedded Systems Group in Asia, said during a recent interview here. The OS will be formally launched sometime next month, he said.
Windows CE .Net -- which includes support for Bluetooth and 802.11b wireless networking protocols -- can also be used in a variety of other applications such as digital cameras, thin clients, set-top boxes and automotive computers, among others, Wu said. Windows CE .Net offers a "big improvement" in power management compared with Windows CE 3.0 and supports Internet Explorer 5.5 and Windows Media 8.0, he said.
The OS is designed to provide support for the delivery of Web-based services and content to mobile devices. "For example, (with) a PDA, if (the manufacturer) can adopt Windows CE .Net then it can provide the connectivity to transfer Web services," Wu said.
Like Windows XP Embedded, which is designed for use in high-end embedded applications such as residential gateways and kiosks, Windows CE .Net is broken down into components. Developers are able to pick and choose among these components to customize the OS based on the specific application they are developing. "It can be as small as 250K (bytes)," Wu said.
But Microsoft is not just pushing its OS as a standalone product to hardware makers. Microsoft hopes to lure companies away from using rival OSs such as Linux by providing tools and other applications that allow hardware makers to get products to market faster.
"Besides providing the operating system platform, we realized there are some devices (where) we need to provide more complete solutions. For example, like Pocket PC, if we just provide Windows CE it is not enough," Wu said. Instead, Microsoft will provide hardware makers with a more complete package, including tools to customize Windows CE .Net to a specific device type and software applications, such as Pocket Office.
Windows CE .Net also allows device makers to customize the OS's user interface. "You can configure your own user interface. That's very important. For different kinds of PDAs you can choose what kind of user interface is best for your customer," Wu said.