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Microsoft Previews Latest Windows CE .NET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft Wednesday took the wraps off a preview of next level of its Windows operating environment for non-PC devices.

Version 4.2 builds on previous versions, but adds new features to better support routers, voice over IP (VoIP) and set-top box devices. Windows CE .NET is Microsoft's modular, small footprint, embedded operating system for mobile and wired smart computing devices such as PDAs, digital cameras, printers, scanners and retail point-of-sale terminals.

Previously code-named "McKendric," the new CE .NET OS includes security and kernel enhancements such as a faster compression engine and flexible cache flushing. The software also increases the number of lines of source code available in the box to over 2 million. Other enhancements include support for Internet Protocol Firewall and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) , and the Telephony User Interface.

The new OS has options to develop applications using Assembly, C/C++, embedded Microsoft Visual C++, Visual Studio .NET, Visual Basic .NET and other languages. Microsoft says that allows developers to port much of their existing source-code library to work with Windows CE .NET .

The Redmond, Wash.-based software king is handing out evaluation kits to developers Wednesday at the Embedded Systems Conference here. The CD can also be ordered directly through Microsoft. The company said pricing and retail availability for the new OS would be "announced shortly."

"The positive response from industry leaders to Windows CE .NET 4.2 demonstrates it is in lock step with the evolution of the embedded software industry," Microsoft Embedded and Appliance Platforms Group general manager Todd Warren said in a statement.

Already, Microsoft says more than 60 companies are participating in its year-old Windows CE .NET 4.2 Joint Development Partner program (JDP), including HP, NEC, Panasonic, Toshiba and Samsung. The company is also working with AMD, ARM Ltd., Broadcom, Conexant Systems, Intel, MIPS Technologies and Texas Instruments on designing their microprocessors to run the latest version of Windows CE .NET on VoIP devices.

"Microsoft Windows CE .NET 4.2 coupled with Intel XScale technology based processors and Intel StrataFlash memory provides a unique combo of high-performance and low-power capabilities to customers developing phones, PDAs, Smart Displays, Personal Media Players, as well as communications applications such as voice over IP, residential and wireless gateways for the home, and small to medium businesses," Intel general manager Peter Green said in a statement.

While added support for routers and VoIP is an important step, Microsoft says "McCallan", which is expected to be version 5.0 of its CE .NET operating system, will be even more impressive when it rolls out about this time next year.