Test time for Microsoft’s wireless .Net

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday is expected to release the first public beta version of a software product that will help extend its .Net initiative to mobile devices and to elaborate on its strategy for bringing .Net services and applications to wireless users, a company official said.

Called the .Net Compact Framework, the beta version will be released at Microsoft’s Mobility Developer Conference in London and includes software needed to run .Net services and applications on portable devices such as handheld computers and smart phones. Microsoft will offer details about how the software should be used and hand out free copies to attendees at the show, said John Montgomery, a group product manager with Microsoft’s .Net developer platform group.

The .Net Compact Framework includes the runtime environment and class libraries needed to run .Net applications and services. A version for desktops and servers, called simply the .Net Framework, has already been released. The compact version is essentially a subset of that for use in handheld computers running Microsoft’s Pocket PC software, its operating software for smart phones, and other Windows CE-based devices such as in-car computers, Montgomery said.

The Redmond, Wash., software maker will also release a beta of the Smart Device Extensions for its Visual Studio .Net developer tools. The extensions will allow developers to write .Net applications that are suitable for devices with smaller screens, less memory and other limited resources. Programming with the tool mirrors the method developers use to write applications for PCs and servers, according to Montgomery.

“Developers won’t have to relearn development to build applications for mobile devices,” he said. “A lot of the code can be cut and pasted moving forward.”

Similar to efforts under way in the Java community, Microsoft’s strategy is to provide software that allows users to download applications, such as a corporate sales application or a video game, to wireless gadgets.

Microsoft will also spell out Wednesday how it plans to work with independent software vendors who are building mobile .Net applications, as well as with the service providers that Microsoft hopes will sell those applications to end users. It will unveil plans for a package of products and services called the Mobile to Market Framework, which includes software needed to build, deliver and charge for wireless applications.

The Mobile to Market Framework should allow service providers to test the security and reliability of applications and certify them for prime-time use, according to Microsoft. It will also offer guidelines as to how applications should be sold and delivered to users, as well as how operators will charge for the services.

Under Microsoft’s guidelines, each time a user pays to download a mobile application, revenue from the sale will need to be split between the software vendor, the hardware manufacturer and the service provider, Montgomery said.

The Microsoft Mobility Developer Conference is on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Information is on the Web at http://www.microsoft.com/europe/mobdevcon/home.asp