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
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

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.

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