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RealTime IT News

Microsoft Holds New CE OS in Its Palm

A month after Microsoft made a large splash in the software pond with HailStorm, the company Tuesday flashed another code name for its newest embedded system and offered it to about 300 beta testers for feedback.

The new CE operating system goes by the less threatening yet quite enigmatic code name of "Talisker" and was Microsoft's highlight at Embedded Systems Conference (ESC) San Francisco 2001.

And while you might not find Talisker in too many dictionaries, you're just as unlikely to find it at the local liquor store. That's right. The new CE, according to a Micrsoft spokseperson, was named after a fine single malt scotch, of which its creators are fond.

CE concentrates its efforts on delivering the latest real-time, multimedia functionality for developers to bring personal digital assistants and other mobile devices to market quicker. Microsoft designed Talisker with its pending .NET software services in mind.

Microsoft said Talisker Beta 1 was designed to offer better wireless and network connectivity through native support for Bluetooth, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) and new USB drivers, enhanced multimedia functionality with DVD support, and stronger security with the inclusion of the Kerberos security protocol and support for secure socket layers (SSL) for the HTTP Server in Talisker.

Those who have been following Microsoft's myriad business models may have raised an eyebrow at the notion that it has agreed to tuck support for Bluetooth into Talisker. Last week, Microsoft said it won't support Bluetooth in its Windows XP because it believed hardware and software development has proven too slow, opting for the 802.11 wireless standard.

Also on the menu for the new OS are interrupt service routines (ISRs), new BSPs and customizable UI services, which the software giant hopes will help original equipment manufacturers deliver products to market faster. Microsoft is targeting late 2001 as a final release.

As it is often wont to do with significant product releases (its did so with its XP), Microsoft Tuesday also announced an alliance program for the new CE: the Microsoft Windows CE 3.0 Innovation Alliance Program, which lets systems integrators (SIs) jump on the bandwagon by enticing them with increased source code access to better serve their customers.

SIs who have joined Microsoft's program include Accelent Systems Inc., Annasoft Systems, BSQUARE Corp., NMI Electronics Ltd., 3Soft GmbH and VenturCom Inc.

Microsoft also said at the conference that it will offer preconfigured and pretested services packages to give developers a head start.

Despite the partnerships and support it seems Microsoft has some serious ground to make up in the embedded systems arena. The company has Windows NT Embedded 4.0 and CE 3.0 in its repertoire, with Embedded Windows XP in the works.

Yet the market share versus Palm's industry-leading OS is lopsided in, ironically, much the same fashion as Netscape's Navigator is to Internet Explorer; in terms of handheld platforms, Palm currently holds an 86 percent market share according to research firm NPD Intellect while Microsoft's Pocket PC garners 12 percent, with 2 percent going to miscellaneous OSs.

Though appealing to many gadget loving consumers, the handheld market overall stands to benefit from widespread mobile enterprise use among companies huge work forces. In adjusting its figures last week, Goldman Sachs said it was greatly expanding its estimate from $13 billion to $20 billion by 2005 due to return on investment upgrades. Rather than a penetration rate of 21 million users by 2005, GS now expects 30 million corporate mobile Internet users.

"We believe the penetration of wireless handheld devices into the enterprise to be one of the driving forces behind this growth," GS said in the report. "We believe the 'always-on' PDA is to be viewed less as a luxury and more as a necessity.