Two hardware manufacturers have thrown their support behind the latest version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows CE .Net operating system, version 4.1, which was released Tuesday. Ahead of the launch, Samsung Semiconductor Inc. announced a line of ARM-based processors optimized for the updated OS and Via Technologies Inc. said its Eden processors will support the new OS. Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) later added its support.
Windows CE .Net is Microsoft’s operating system for handheld devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smart phones. The new release contains support for file viewers for Microsoft’s Office productivity applications, such as Word and Excel, and support for the latest version of Internet Protocol (IP), IPv6.
Microsoft held a conference call with Todd Warren, head of the Microsoft Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group to announce the release Tuesday.
The update, code-named Jameson, was originally scheduled to be released by the end of this year, according to Microsoft officials speaking at the Embedded Systems Conference in March.
Windows CE .Net 4.1 will allow for improved performance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) and Windows Media Player software on handhelds, said Rob Enderle, a research fellow with Giga Information Group Inc. Microsoft also improved the performance of thin clients built with Remote Display Protocol (RDP), Warren said. RDP allows Windows applications to be hosted on servers and accessed by desktop clients without local copies of the application.
Support for IPv6 will allow users of handheld devices to access more Web pages than before, specifically multimedia sites. “(IPv6 support) is insurance to make sure you get the video or audio content you’re paying for,” Enderle said. Users will be able to access more Web pages because the address space was increased from 32 bits to 128 bits. The previous version of IP, IPv4, was beginning to run out of unique addresses as more and more devices were connected to the Internet. The newest version allows for an almost unlimited number of unique addresses.
The file viewers will carry an incremental cost to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), Warren said. Documents supported will include Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe Systems Inc.’s Acrobat reader. Users will also be able to view graphics files in the .GIF, .BMP, and .JPG formats.
The new version of Windows CE .Net also includes Microsoft’s Speech application programming interface (API), which will allow developers to create applications that use speech technology for mobile workers, Warren said. It allows vendors of speech-recognition engines to create products that will work with any speech application developed with SAPI 5.0, without having to tailor the speech recognition code for different applications, he said.
Microsoft also updated its tool kit for Windows CE .Net developers. The source code for certain components of version 4.1 will be available to developers, so they can automate application testing and debugging, Warren said. Searching for individual portions of that code will also be easier in the new version, with improved source code browsing. Additionally, an improved device emulator will allow developers to test devices such as set-top boxes without actually having the device on hand.
In a show of support for the new OS version, Samsung announced its Arm-based Application Processors in a release Tuesday. Microsoft applications that were once too large or complex to run on handhelds will now work with Windows CE .Net 4.1 and Samsung’s forthcoming processors, the company said. Samsung will include the file viewers in its chips, which are based on processor cores from Arm Ltd.
Arm announced in April at the Embedded Processor Forum that it was preparing a chip design for wireless mobile devices.
Samsung’s Application Processor chips include a 2D graphics accelerator, a camera interface, a image scalar, and a color space converter to support IPv6 and multimedia applications.
AMD’s Alchemy Au1000, Au1100, and Au1500 processors for PDAs and Web pads will also support the new OS, it said in a release Tuesday.
Via did not release any specific products tailored to the new version of Windows CE but said its Eden processor would support the new OS.
The inclusion of IPv6 into Windows CE .Net 4.1 was the result of a project by researchers at Lancaster University in the U.K. Academics at the school were given access to the source code as part of Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Academic Program. Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates spoke about Lancaster’s involvement and other academic projects Monday during a keynote speech at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2002 at the company’s Redmond, Wash., headquarters.
Information about the release can be found at http://www.microsoft.com.