Microsoft has started shipping to manufacturers Windows CE Version 2.0, the latest incarnation of its slimmed-down operating system for handheld computers.
Version 2.0 includes support for email attachments and Ethernet, and features a pocket version of Microsoft's PowerPoint application, says Craig Mundie, senior vice president of Microsoft's consumer platforms divsion.
"These enhancements move Windows CE up a considerable notch in its ability to support full business implementations as well as just an individual working in his job," Mundie says.
Windows CE is being shipped to 10 manufacturers worldwide, including Ericsson Group, NEC and Sharp. Manufacturers are expected to start rolling out devices based on the new operating system by the end of the year, Mundie says.
Microsoft has worked with users to hammer out weaknesses identified in the operating system since it was unveiled last November at the Comdex tradeshow in Las Vegas, Mundie says. These weaknesses centered mainly on issues of legibility and connectivity.
To make screen displays more readable, Windows CE now supports full 24-bit color and 240 by 640-pixel resolution, Mundie said.
The new operating system was optimised to appeal more to business users, Mundie said. To this end, Version 2.0 enables a handheld computer to link to a printer via a serial or infrared connection. It also supports enhanced security features when connecting by Ethernet, including authentication and file-level security, Mundie said.
Synchronisation features have been improved, so that for the first time e-mail and other files can be synchronised from a PC rather than just downloaded. Microsoft's ActiveSync technology also will allow a desktop PC to synchronise changes continuously when connected to a handheld device, officials say.
Pocket PowerPoint allows users to display presentations authored on a desktop by connecting the handheld device into a television screen or a PC monitor, and to edit and re-order presentation slides directly from the handheld, Mundie says.
Other additions in the new version include a spell-checker in Pocket Word, and a split screen to make more use of screen space. Word and Excel feature zoom and full-screen views, made possibe by incorporating support for TrueType fonts. Support has also been added for e-mail attachments, including Web-pages, voice and graphics, and version 2.0 will display documents authored in the GIF, JPEG and BMP file formats, Mundie says.
Hewlett-Packard today was among the first manufacturers to announce a device based on Version 2.0. Its HP 360LX will ship in late 1997, complete with color support, at an estimated street price of US$699, HP officials say.
At least four manufacturers - Casio, HP, NEC and Philips Electronics - have announced free ROM upgrades for their current Windows CE customers, Microsoft officials say.