Microsoft will hammer the next piece of its .Net puzzle into place on Monday with the launch of Windows CE .Net, the latest version of its mobile operating system. Windows CE .NET is aimed at small, portable devices like handheld computers and mobile phones, and complements Windows Embedded, which runs on higher-end systems like kiosks and Web tablets.
CE .Net is designed specifically to fit into Microsoft's .Net strategy for Web services. The software supports better mobile features such as improved handling of wireless networking, allowing devices to interact more seamlessly with online services. Windows CE .Net also supports Internet Explorer 5.5, Microsoft's Web browser, and the Web language XML 3.0, both key components of .Net.
The software will include native support for 802.11 wireless LANs and Bluetooth, a wireless technology used for connecting peripherals, mobile devices and PCs; Windows XP, by contrast, did not ship with Bluetooth capabilities built in. Microsoft has improved power management and added support for Windows Media 8.0.
Several vendors are already developing products based on CE .Net, including Siemens and Wyse. Siemens' SIMpad is a mobile Web access device aimed at business users in financial services, health care and similar industries. Wyse is using Windows CE .Net in a "thin client", a desktop device that runs applications over a network instead of from a hard drive. Siemens and others will be demonstrating their products at the launch.
CE .Net will ultimately replace Windows CE 3.0, the platform on which a number of mobile devices are based, including the PocketPC range of handheld computers from HP, Compaq and others. Microsoft has not commented on whether or when PocketPC will make the switch to Windows CE .Net. Pocket PC 2002 was released last autumn.
Microsoft is making efforts to encourage developers to quickly roll out CE .Net products and applications. The company released two beta versions of the operating system last year, including one in August that was free to anyone willing to pay shipping and handling for a CD-ROM. Microsoft also created a downloadable emulator that allowed some of the preliminary development work needed to create a CE .Net-based device to be done on a Windows 2000 or Windows XP workstation.
CNET News.com's Ian Fried contributed to this report.
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