Microsoft aims at embedded systems market

Microsoft Corp. unwrapped Monday a handful of initiatives designed to promote the use of its operating systems in embedded devices such as Web-enabled cell phones, handheld computers and industrial equipment.

The initiatives include new software components to extend the functionality of Windows CE, a slimmed-down version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system, along with programs designed to make it easier for companies who manufacture embedded equipment to use Microsoft’s software.

The announcements were made at Embedded Systems Conference 2000, a trade show for developers that kicked off Monday in San Jose, Calif. Microsoft representatives were on hand to demonstrate the software it would like manufacturers to use, including embedded versions of Windows CE and Windows NT and their respective development tools.

In the way of new software, Microsoft released an “add-on pack” for Windows CE 3.0 that includes additional software components aimed at extending the capabilities of the operating system in areas such as communications and networking.

Specifically, the add-on pack includes components that should allow devices to make greater use of XML (extensible markup language), an emerging programming language that is also an important part of Microsoft’s wide-ranging .Net initiative.

Through .Net, Microsoft aims to provide a range of software and services that will enable businesses to offer new types of services over the Internet. In Microsoft’s vision, many of those services would be accessed from portable devices, so it makes sense for the company to extend XML support to its handheld software platform.

The Windows CE add-on pack also supports ICS (Internet connection sharing) which enables a Windows CE-based device to share a single Internet connection with other devices; PPTP (point-to-point tunneling protocol), a technology to help provide remote users with secure access to corporate networks; and RDP (remote desktop protocol) 5.0 which is supposed to enable smaller Windows CE-based devices to access Windows business applications running on a Windows 2000 server, Microsoft said.

The company also announced a handful of programs to encourage its partners and developers in the embedded field to work more closely together. They include the first Windows Embedded partner program, the Windows Embedded Online Customer Marketplace, and a dedicated Web site in the Microsoft Developer Network, called the Windows Embedded Developer Center.

Microsoft additionally launched a Windows Embedded Family Evaluation Kit, which includes the Windows CE 3.0 and Windows NT Embedded 4.0 operating systems and their associated development tools. The evaluation kit is available free through the Microsoft Developer Store, at http://www.developerstore.com/, or through a Windows Embedded authorized distributor, the company said.

Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.

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