MS previews Windows CE 5.0

During the Embedded Systems Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft Corp. announced a technology preview kit for Windows CE 5.0, previously code-named Macallan.

The CE OS was developed to give small-footprint devices — including consumer electronics, gateways, industrial controllers, mobile handheld devices, IP set-top boxes, voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones and thin clients — the same graphics and multimedia functionality as desktop PCs.

Taking over from its predecessor, Windows CE 4.2, the most recent embedded operating system was designed to help developers reduce development time and costs when building small-footprint, connected devices, according to the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant.

Windows CE 5.0 has been developed mostly with the aid of customer feedback, said Microsoft, adding that new features of the final CE version include increased out-of-the-box hardware support, security enhancements, advanced multimedia capabilities and automated testing tools. Additionally, hardware support with more than 50 drivers has also been included in the new version.

Windows CE 5.0 will be released with all components set to the highest possible security setting, Microsoft said, but the flexibility will be available for developers to modify the security setting as needed.

A new capability added to CE 5.0 is Windows Error Reporting, which would allow for quality and performance monitoring for in-field devices. According to Microsoft, this feature would be beneficial to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that would then be able to continually improve and update devices that have already been deployed.

On the multimedia side, Windows CE 5.0 will include support for Direct3D Mobile, a component object model (COM)-based programming model and graphics solution built on Microsoft’s DirectX desktop technology.

One of the things that 5.0 really demonstrates is the fact that Microsoft has again tied itself to the hip of developers, with many changes for 5.0 coming from the developers themselves, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group in San Jose.

An example of this direction from the developers was including Microsoft’s Command-line into 5.0, a platform which allows developers to more easily go in and make changes and see what those changes are, according to Enderle.

The integration of CE with the Windows desktop has improved from previous editions, Enderle explained, but the standalone capability of the product has also improved with 5.0.

“It is more of a standalone platform now with the recognition that many of the devices it is finding itself on — that range from exercise equipment [and] robots to standalone handheld computers — are no longer being used as adjuncts to a PC but as functional components that may never connect to a personal computer,” Enderle said. “So it needed more security, it needed better connectivity, it needed to become a much more robust platform, and 5.0 is by nature much more robust.”

With such a strong focus on security in the marketplace when it comes to wireless technologies, Enderle said once the product goes out and goes through testing it will be interesting to see whether or not the security needs are met.

“In most cases in the current environment, no product can be secure enough, so I have a feeling that some of the feedback is going to be that it probably still has to be more secure, and that it is going to be a moving target no matter how we look at it,” he added.

Starting April 1 the preview will also be available for download on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN). The final product is scheduled to be available this summer.

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