US Report: Microsoft to consolidate Windows CE

In an effort to alleviate confusion about the various versions of Windows CE, Microsoft Corp. plans to move all CE users to a single version of the mobile operating system next year.

To date, devices built around the company's Palm-size PC and Handheld PC Professional platforms have been built on different releases of Windows CE. Microsoft will begin to shift users to the next version of Windows CE, 2.11, next month with a ROM upgrade for handheld PCs based on Windows CE 2.0, sources said.

All the devices will then be moved to Windows CE 3.0, which is scheduled for release in the third quarter of next year. It's all part of a plan to consolidate multiple form factors on the same operating system. The ROM upgrade, which will be priced at $129, will contain all of the software necessary to upgrade older devices, such as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s 620LX or Philips Mobile Computing Group's Velo 500, to Handheld PC Professional.

That software comprises Windows CE 2.11 and the Handheld PC Professional software, which includes items such as a new TCP/IP stack; drivers for Proxim Inc.'s wireless LAN technology; and a set of Pocket applications, including Word, PowerPoint and Access.

A number of vendors, including NEC Computer Systems Division and HP, are expected to refresh their Windows CE handheld PCs with the software next year. NEC is expected to announce a new model of its MobilePro series, and HP plans to introduce a new HP600 series model in the first quarter, sources said.

Microsoft officials confirmed that it is planning to work with OEMs to offer an upgrade in January. The upgrade, they said, will target larger form factors first. Although the upgrade will not initially be available for Palm-size PCs, the next version of the platform will support Win CE 2.11.

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