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Windows CE .NET 4.1 Available

Microsoft on Tuesday made available an interim release of its Windows CE .NET operating system for mobile and small-footprint devices that adds IPv6 support, new file viewers and a Speech API.

The official title is Windows CE .NET, version 4.1; the version had previously been referred to by the code-name "Jameson." Microsoft characterizes the release as an update to Windows CE .NET, which sequentially would have been the 4.0 release of Windows CE if the entire company hadn't gone through a shift to renaming all its products .NET.

On the subject of .NET, the 4.1 update also includes a beta of the .NET Compact Framework, which is a version of the .NET Framework for smart devices. The main difference between this beta of the .NET Compact Framework and the Technical Preview of the compact framework that shipped with Windows .NET CE back in January is that this one supports the release version of Visual Studio .NET, which shipped in February. A final version of the .NET Compact Framework is expected by the end of the year.

The Windows CE releases are intended primarily for device manufacturers and OEMs as opposed to corporate developers, and several enhancements in version 4.1 are intended to help those companies bring devices to market faster or more easily. They include an improved device emulator, additional shared source code and improved source code browsing.

Companies participating in a Joint Development Program include Hitachi, which is using IPv6, VoIP and the compact framework in a device; NEC Infrontia, which is working on point-of-sale terminal applications; Samsung, which is developing a connected client using 802.11 and Internet Explorer; and ViewSonic, which is one of Microsoft's Smart Display partners.

Microsoft won't, and probably can't, say specifically when devices might appear.

"That's going to depend on the OEMs," says Todd Warren, general manager of Microsoft's Embedded and Appliance Group. "What we've typically seen, especially with this Joint Development Program, is that devices start to appear within about six months of the release of the source code."

For historical comparison, Warren says about 10 or 15 devices have come out for Windows CE .NET from major OEMs in the six months since that operating system shipped.

When the devices do ship, users can expect support for IPv6 and Speech API (SAPI), viewers for popular file types and improved performance, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft got help in developing support for IPv6 from Lancaster University in England. IPv6 increases the address space from 32 bits in IPv4 to 128 bits and supports quality of service parameters for real-time audio and video streaming. The Speech API, the 5.0 version of Microsoft's SAPI, exists so application developers can create speech-enabled applications. File viewers were added so users can open documents including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, GIF, BMP and JPG.

Microsoft is making a series of performance improvement claims in comparisons between Windows CE .NET 4.1 and the six-month-old Windows CE .NET. Internet Explorer is supposed to be 15 percent faster; the Remote display protocol, important for thin-client computing, is said to be 20 percent faster; and Windows Media Player is also supposed to be 20 percent faster.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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