Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates unveiled Windows CE .Net, the latest version of Windows CE that supports Web services, at the Consumer Electronics Show here last week.
Gates said a number of portable device manufacturers are already using the new OS in products. Among those companies unveiling Windows CE .Net handhelds at the show were Symbol Technologies, Intermec Technologies, Fujitsu, Casio Computer, Hitachi and Samsung Information Systems America. ViewSonic said it would use Windows CE .Net in its ViewPad 100 Web pad device; Sony said it built the OS into its next-generation plasma display.
Microsoft said the new version of the OS provides the underlying framework to extend Web services to mobile devices. The OS includes a .Net Compact Framework, essentially a subset of the standard .Net framework suitable for small-footprint devices, and supports XML and SOAP.
Windows CE .Net also drops the operating system footprint down by about half. Minimum kernel configuration has decreased from 400K in Windows CE 3.0 to about 210K, Microsoft said.
Aubrey Edwards, director of marketing in Microsoft's embedded appliance platform group, said Microsoft is touting Windows CE .Net's ease of use for developers. "The theme for launching this product is getting embedded developers able to evaluate and use .Net quickly and easily," he said.
Among some of the new benefits for developers in Windows CE .Net, he said, are access to about 1.5 million lines of source code, or three times more code than was available for 3.0, to help with debugging efforts. In addition, Microsoft is providing a Windows CE .Net Emulation Edition that lets developers build and test their CE .Net-based designs on workstations running Windows 2000 or XP without the target hardware, he said.
Microsoft also has posted a free evaluation editor on its site and said one- to-four day training sessions are now available for developers.
At the show, Microsoft said it is talking to customers about the next version of Windows CE .Net, code-named Macallan. Edwards said Microsoft has yet to come up with a specific product set but is looking at the kind of features that will be necessary in devices available at least a year out.
Windows CE .Net supercedes Windows CE 3.0 as the umbrella set of operating system features available for portable and other devices that require a small footprint. From there, Microsoft creates related OSes that contain a subset of the full operating system based on the needs of specific form factors. Examples are Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 for handhelds and Smartphone 2002 (formerly code-named Stinger) for cellular phones, both based on Windows CE 3.0.
Device manufacturers and mobile integrators have the choice of using a preconfigured operating system, such as the Pocket PC 2002 for handhelds, or configuring their own software on devices for special uses. Symbol, Holtsville, N.Y., and mobile integrator Stellcom, San Diego, have said they like to pick and choose from Windows CE's full edition when customizing solutions for clients.