Windows CE Add-On Lures Linux Developers

Microsoft today released a free upgrade to Windows CE 5.0 aimed at luring media device developers away from Linux and to
Redmond’s vision of the digital home. The company made the announcement during the same week of LinuxWorld.

The Networked Media Device Feature Pack, free optional software aimed at OEMs (original
equipment manufacturers) of IPTV set-top boxes, digital video recorders and home media gateways, helps
developers focus on devices rather than licensing and integration,
according to a statement.

“The current business model for the Networked Media Device market is
for OEMs to go through a long and costly shopping spree to obtain all
the components needed to build the device, including the OS (Linux),
media playback, networking and device drivers, UI, codecs, DRM, etc.,”
according to Jane Gilson, director of the Mobile and Embedded Devices
Division at
Microsoft.

Gilson calls the company’s software pack a “one-stop-shop of fully tested
and pre-integrated components. OEMs just need to point and click to add
the functionality.”

The announcement takes a swipe at Linux, the open source operating system used by TiVo, which
dominates the DVR market.

“Unlike open source operating systems,” the
new add-on pack provides networking, device drivers and codecs to
develop networked media devices, according to Microsoft.

At least 30 device manufacturers are shipping Windows CE set-top
boxes, according to a statement from Jane Gilson, director of
Microsoft’s Mobile and Embedded Devices Division. Among those planning
products using the feature pack: Cisco, Motorola, HUMAX, and Arnoi
Electronics.

Along with DVR software, the network device pack includes Microsoft’s
PlaysForSure
certification, a program to help consumers know which media devices will
work with Windows PCs.

The optional software, the start of Microsoft’s go-to-market strategy
of modular feature packs, is included in the software giant’s Shared Source Initiative providing developer’s access to the source code
and the right to distribute custom applications.

Microsoft introduced the initiative three years ago and expanded it last year to include more
European Union countries. The EU has charged Microsoft with not opening its dominant Windows brand to competitors.

“Just as we’ve released this feature pack to facilitate the creation of
next-generation Networked Media Devices and IP set-top boxes, we are
already looking at other industry segments based on the needs and
demands of our customers,” Gilson said.

China’s Amoi Electronics will be one of the first company’s to use
the feature pack in networked devices. Amoi can use the shared source
code to reduce development costs and differentiate its products from
competitors, according to a statement from Chen Qiang, general manager
of Arnoi’s Digital Home Division.

Windows CE 5.0 was introduced during the 2004 Embedded Systems
Conference.

“It’s the Betty Crocker approach,” said Joe Wilcox, a JupiterResearch senior analyst.

Microsoft provides developers with the software mix
for them to bake into products. And the outcome is positive, as long
as the developers agree with Microsoft’s digital entertainment vision,
according to Wilcox.

A major problem is that Microsoft’s PC-centric
approach to consumer electronics doesn’t always mesh with CE developers.

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