Microsoft is considering releasing this year a new version of the core embedded operating system that powers Windows Mobile phones and other devices. That new Windows Embedded Compact release, codenamed "Cashmere," could introduce a host of new features, from Adobe FlashLite support, to more advanced gesture recognition.
Cashmere, if the Softies do end up fielding it, will be released to manufacturing this summer, possibly in August, according to an internal presentation on Microsoft's Embedded platforms shared with me by Stephen Chapman, UX Evanglist blogger.
Cashmere is based on Windows CE 6 and was, up until fairly recently, was still "under consideration," according to the Microsoft roadmap. Cashmere, if it is released, will debut more than a year ahead of "Chelan," the version of Windows Embedded Compact due around the fourth quarter of 2010. It's unclear how Microsoft would brand Cashmere, but my guess is it could become CE 6.0 Release 3 (R3).
(Cashmere, for you Microsoft codename fanatics, is a town in Washington between Seattle and Chelan. Cashmere and Chelan are members of the Microsoft Embedded Compact operating-system family, which is the OS on top of which Windows Mobile devices are built. Quebec, also due in 2010, is a member of the "sibling" Windows Embedded Standard.)
According to the slide deck, Cashmere would include support for FlashLite; an improved browser (beyond the current IE 6 which is integrated into Windows Mobile 6.5 and is based on the Windows CE 5.x release); a connection manager that would allow users to manager their connections regardless of whether it was WiFi, Bluetooth, LAN or Cellcore; an integrated Live Messenger client; and additional support for touch and "non-touch" gestures.
The goal of Cashmere would be to "deliver needed components to (the) CE platform," according to the slides.
Recently, when I asked Microsoft which version of its embedded platform would be the core of Windows Mobile 7, I got the lame response that Microsoft had not yet announced Windows Mobile 7 or any of its components. Now, I'm starting to think the reason for the evasiveness might have been uncertainty....
Maybe the Softies weren't yet sure which version of the Embedded Compact platform might end up inside Windows Mobile 7 and Pink phones. Perhaps it would be Windows CE 6.0 Release 2 (which Microsoft released to manufacturing at the end of 2007.) But maybe it would be Cashmere.
After all, Windows Mobile 7 is a lot further along than many think. It is due to go to testers -- or maybe even be released to manufacturing (!) -- this fall, with the first Windows Mobile 7 phones slated to ship around April 2010.
Back to the roadmap. If Microsoft doesn't end up delivering Cashmere, Chelan (known internally as CE 7.0) is still quite a ways off. However, given how far behind Windows Mobile traditionally has trailed the CE/Embedded Compact platform team, in terms of building new releases on top of the latest embedded operating platforms, a year might not matter.
In the interim, here's a list of some of the features, according to the slide deck, slated for the Chelan version of Compact Embedded: IE 7 browser rendering support; Flash support; Silverlight renderng support; enablement of the Vista networking stack/NDIS 6.1; improved ActiveSync functionality; symmetric multiprocessing support; Windows Media DRM 10.02; and DLNA 1.5 compliant stack for consumer electronics connectivity, among other features. (WMPowerUser.com has a more complete list of expected Chelan features, which Microsoft shared recently with a select group of attendees of TechEd 2009.)